New banknotes: printing and sustainable cotton

Each year, DNB and the other central banks put new euro banknotes into circulation.In 2017, we for instance gave the order to print around 300 million €20 banknotes.We aim to use sustainable cotton as much as possible.

Order to print around 300 million €20 banknotes in 2019

New banknotes

The European Central Bank (ECB) oversees the production of new banknotes, establishing which central bank must order how many banknotes. 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. Forexample, the Bundesbank produces 500 million €50 euro notes and 500 million €20 euro notes in 2019.The ECB also determines which printing companies are authorised to print euro banknotes.     


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

The printing of euro banknotes is an elaborate process. First, the 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. After the printing process, the sheets of paper are cut up into banknotes. Then the notes are subjected to a final check: is the picture correct and are there no specks of dirt on the notes? 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. But used banknotes are also returned to DNB to be checked.

Sustainable cotton for euro banknotes

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

Banknotes are made of cotton. Or rather, from comber noils. These short fibres remain when cotton is spun into yarn. We want to use sustainable cotton for the production of euro banknotes. This year 100% of all banknotes should be produced using sustainable cotton: organic or Fairtrade. With Fairtrade, the producers receive a fair price for their goods; although they do not grow the cotton organically, they do care for the environment. Growers that produce organic cotton do not use any pesticides or fertilisers at all. Our 100% requirement makes us a frontrunner in Europe.

Our commitment: 100% sustainable cotton

DNB aims to produce 100% sustainable banknotes by 2019, so completely using responsibly produced cotton. We are currently looking into the use of sustainably produced cotton linters in banknote production. Cotton linters are fine, silky fibres which adhere to the seeds of the cotton plant after ginning. The linters make for clear watermarks in the banknotes. We are also investigating the use of a third sustainability label, as used by retail chains IKEA and H&M. This will encourage growers to produce their cotton sustainably. If this raises their income and brings their costs down, they will earn a better income, thereby creating a win-win situation in which we gladly cooperate.