New banknotes: printing and sustainable cotton

DNB and the other central banks in the euro area put new euro banknotes into circulation. In 2020, DNB will have nearly 400 million 20-euro banknotes printed. The notes are printed on sustainable cotton.

Order to print around 300 million €20 banknotes in 2019

New banknotes

The European Central Bank (ECB) is responsible for coordinating the production of new banknotes, and it decides which national central banks must order new banknotes and how many. Each year, the ECB first assesses how many banknotes are needed of which denominations. Then all central banks are ordered to take on the printing of specific denominations. For example, the Bundesbank is responsible for the production of 700 million 10-euro banknotes in 2020.   


New €50 banknotes are printed on DNB's orders.

Printing euro banknotes is an elaborate process. First, the cotton paper is produced. It is watermarked and a security thread and foil are embedded in the paper. When the paper is ready, the printing process can start. Various printing techniques are used, such as offset for the front and back, plate printing for the tactile ink, screen printing for the special colour-changing ink, and letterpress printing for the serial number.

From the printer to DNB

After the printing process, the sheets of paper are cut up into banknotes. Then the notes are subjected to a final check: are the picture and other images correct, and are notes dust-free? If everything is in order, the euro banknotes are ready to be issued. They are then transported from the printing firm to DNB, and we put them into circulation.Millions of used banknotes are also returned to DNB to bechecked.

Sustainable cotton for euro banknotes

We are aiming for 100% sustainable cotton in the production of banknotes.

Banknotes are made of cotton, or more specifically from ‘comber noils’, which are the short fibres that remain when cotton is spun into thread or yarn for the textile industry. At DNB, we only source organic or Fairtrade cotton. With Fairtrade, the producers receive a fair price for their goods. Although Fairtrade growers do not produce their cotton organically, they do care for the environment. Growers that produce organic cotton do not use any pesticides or fertilisers at all.

100% sustainable

DNB uses exclusively 100% sustainable cotton for the production of euro banknotes. This is cotton that is Fairtrade certified, Organic certified, or certified sustainable by the Better Cotton Initiative organisation (BCI). DNB is currently looking into adopting a third sustainability label, similar to those used by retail chains IKEA and H&M. This will encourage growers to produce their cotton sustainably. If this raises their revenues and brings their costs down, they will earn a better income, thereby creating a win-win situation which we are glad to be a part of.