Is Australian money biodegradable?

The article will explain the biodegradability aspect of Australian banknotes while other topics that will be shed light upon will be: 

  • What is Australian money made of?
  • Is Australian money better than paper currency?
  • How to recycle Australian money?
  • Is Australian money vegan?

Is Australian money biodegradable?

No, Australian money, otherwise called Australian banknotes, is not biodegradable because it is made from a synthetic polymer called propylene, a type of plastic. 

Conventional currency or banknotes are made from bio-based materials such as cotton, paper, or linen but in the late 20th century, polymer banknotes were introduced by Australia and are regarded as more eco-friendly because they are more durable, more secure, and can be recycled. 

The reason why Australian banknotes are non-biodegradable is that they are made from synthetic materials which can not be ingested by microbes and therefore, microbes such as bacteria, fungi et cetera are not able to break down the structures of these materials. 

What is Australian money made of?

The material used to make any product can tell if that product is biodegradable or not. As regards Australian money or Australian banknotes, these are made from a type of plastic, a polymer (propylene to be specific). 

With the name plastic, you may recall all the negative stuff you had heard about plastics as to how they are made from the derivatives of fossil fuels and could remain in the environment for up to a thousand years. 

Therefore, you may wonder what is the need for using plastic banknotes instead of money made from paper or cotton. The basic answer to this question is that plastic banknotes are considered to be more durable, secure, and also stronger. This implies less waste generation caused by currencies. 

Are Australian banknotes better than paper banknotes? (5 reasons) 

It has been established that Australian banknotes are made from propylene plastics which are different in nature from paper bank notes (made from paper or linen). Therefore, it is important to draw a comparison between plastic banknotes and paper banknotes so that a stance may be developed regarding the eco-friendliness of Australian banknotes. 

Many people claim that the Australian banknotes are better than other banknotes made from cotton, paper or linen because of the following reasons: 

  • Australian banknotes are more durable 
  • Australian banknotes are waterproof
  • Australian banknotes consume less energy and resources to make 
  • Australian banknotes come with enhanced security 
  • Australian banknotes are greener when it comes to disposal as compared to paper currency 

Let us explore these points in slight detail to develop a better stance. 

Australian notes are waterproof

Since Australian banknotes are made from a polymer, propylene, it offers enhanced utilitarian features that may not be offered in the case of paper banknotes. One of them is the ability to be waterproof. 

You don’t have to worry if your Australian banknotes fell on a wet road or a water tub because it will not alter their functionality of it. This directly relates to the environmental factor because when Australian banknotes are water-proof, there will be less waste and hence better waste management. 

Australian banknotes come with enhanced security 

The main purpose of any banknote is to be good enough to not be misused or exploited. When it comes to that, Australian banknotes beat their counterparts because the material used to make Australian banknotes (propylene) allows the makers to twerk better with the security features. 

Australian banknotes consume less energy and resources

If we draw a comparison between Australian banknotes production as compared to paper or cotton banknotes production, we will see that the latter takes up a massive amount of resources and energy. 

Let’s explore the case of cotton. Cotton plants require a lot of water to grow and therefore when cotton is used to make banknotes, not only the cotton will be consumed but also the water that was used to produce it. Water, as we know, is a very limited resource. On the other hand, polymer banknotes require less water to make because of the artificiality of the process. 

It is because of these reasons that it was researched that polymer banknotes contribute to a reduction of GHG emissions by about 50%. 

Australian banknotes are more durable 

When something is more durable, it tends to last longer and therefore, we are talking about less waste generation. The issue of waste generation is a significant one because every year more than 2 billion tons of waste is generated. 

These uncanny figures foster unprecedented challenges for waste management endeavours and therefore, any effort to alleviate this will be deemed as eco-friendly. 

The case of Australian banknotes is very same. Because of the materials used to make Australian banknotes, they tend to last two to three times more than paper banknotes and therefore, Australian banknotes contribute to the alleviation of issues such as waste management and resource conservation. 

Australian banknotes can be recycled 

One of the major objections that are linked and associated with the topic of polymer banknotes or Australian banknotes is that they are not biodegradable because of the materials involved. 

When something is not biodegradable, it will tend to last or remain for a longer duration of time. This will create two major issues: 

  • Waste management issues
  • Degradative effects on the environment 

Non-biodegradable materials are known to cause many environmental anomalies such as the greenhouse effect, global warming, deforestation, soil erosion et cetera. 

However, there is one life-saver that can be depended upon and that is recycling. Recycling implies that the product is reused instead of throwing it away. If materials and products are recycled as per the principles, there will be no waste at all. 

Fortunately, Australian banknotes can be recycled and therefore, this can negate the negative effects that may be caused by the synthetic polymers used to make Australian banknotes. 

Australian banknotes are greener to dispose of 

As discussed, Australian banknotes or polymer banknotes can be easily and conveniently recycled and therefore, it makes the disposal of polymer banknotes green. However, if we consider the case of paper banknotes, then most of them end up in landfills or incinerators which are not that eco-friendly. 

How to recycle Australian banknotes?

As expressed, Australian banknotes can be recycled into materials such as: 

  • Compost bins 
  • Plumbing fitting 
  • Building materials 
  • Industrial components 
  • Domestic components 

Although Australian money is durable, it will have an end life and therefore, the important question is what can you do to recycle Australian banknotes? 

As regards that, there is not much that you can do. However, consider the following points: 

  • If you think that your Australian banknote is losing its functionality, you may have it replaced or exchanged by local banks or reserve banks at face value
  • The banks usually check the quality and life of polymer banknotes and if they feel that it needs to be recycled, they will do it yourself 
  • Logically saying, it is not feasible to throw Australian banknotes in recycling bins or recycling facilities because then you will not get anything. 
  • You should never throw your banknote in regular trash cans because then it will most likely end up in landfills and then there will be negative effects of propylene on the environment. 

As per the process, authorities claim that the banknotes are shredded into small pieces which are melted and then made into pallets to be made into other materials. 

Is Australian money vegan?

No, Australian banknotes can not be regarded as vegan because there is a layer of animal fat on these polymer banknotes to achieve their utility. 


It is concluded that Australian money is not biodegradable because it is made from a synthetic polymer called propylene, which is a type of plastic. 

The reason why Australian banknotes are non-biodegradable is that they are made from synthetic materials which can not be ingested by microbes and therefore, microbes such as bacteria, fungi et cetera are not able to break down the structures of these materials. 

Australian banknotes are considered greener as compared to paper currency because the former is more durable, easier to produce and better off in terms of disposal and recycling. 


Saidi, Uptin. (February 21, 2018). Australia’s banknotes may be the most advanced in the world. Retrieved from:

Reserve Bank of Australia. Recycling. Retrieved from:

Greener. Why are plastic banknotes greener? Retrieved from:

Reserve Bank of Australia. The returns of polymer banknotes. Retrieved from:

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