Banknotes- how a value chain becomes sustainable

Project  Owner: Louisenthal

Describe the project

This project is a step towards our vision to develop the most sustainable banknote. In our study we examine the lifecycle of a banknote.
Starting with its value chain we present and compare the raw materials used for cash. For one thing we are increasing the proportion of organic and Fairtrade cotton used in our products. And we think further and have developed Synthec®, a product that is much far more tear-resistant and therefore more durable with synthetic fibers.
Then we go into details about production, energy, water and location, including aspects of hazardous materials and waste prevention. Over the last decade and a half we have already spent EUR 15 million on sustainability projects. One example is our efficient, sustainable approach to heating and cooling works, that has meant savings of around 1.5 gigawatt hours of electricity a year since 2009, the equivalent of some 600 tons of CO2.
Next we discuss transportation, packaging and logistics. One of our success stories in this section is our NotaTracc® Trays for transporting banknotes resulting in 25% less packaging material. Furthermore the Ready2Press packaging system is presented. It’s an enhanced production process that avoids shrink wrapping before finished sheets of paper are sent to printing.
Additionally we address disposal and recycling. Obviously no waste is the best result, so here we touch upon the topic of durability again. Furthermore we present our regenerative afterburning system that cleans the solvent-containing exhaust air from the production of foils.

Date the project was implemented


Sustainability project locations

The projects are conducted at Louisenthal, located in Gmund at Tegernsee.
A unique advantage: Within the drinking water catchment area for Munich. There has been a paper factory in Louisenthal since 1880, originally producing regular paper. The concept of building a factory in the middle of the drinking water catchment area for Munich is rather controversial. But we like to think of our location as an advantage. It meant that, right from the start, we had to include environmental protection and sustainability in our processes. We are also subject to strict European environmental protection regulations and support the turnaround in the change in German energy policy. When it comes to controlling water pollution too, we follow probably the strictest rules in the world.
These are challenges that we are glad to accept – indeed, we often go beyond what is required by law.

Commitment to sustainability

Our commitment is to develop a green concept note by 2021. In order to do so we are following a set of goals addressing different aspects of said concept:
1) Fibers
→ Goal: Substrate made from locally sourced fibers
2) Other raw materials
→ Goal: A biopolymer protective layer
3) Recycling
→ Goal: Old banknotes recycled or subject to thermal recovery
4) Transportation
→ Goal: Use the most sustainable means of transportation possible
5) Energy
→ Goal: Use renewable energy in production
6) Packaging
→ Goal: Transportation boxes made from waste products and grass fibers
7) Production
→ Goal: Try to achieve CO2-neutral production
8) Water
→ Goal: A largely closed water cycle in the production process, with as little fresh water introduced as possible
9) Design
→ Goal: More durable banknotes, less material used
Furthermore we are promoting the idea of including requirements on sustainability in public tenders.

Conserve or manage energy, water, or other resources

For us, water is the most important element. We use it to generate electricity, to cool the mill, and in large quantities for the production of the paper itself. In 2010 we installed a biological wastewater treatment plant in which bacteria is used to purify the process water. The bacteria are then separated and recycled using a membrane filtration system and the purified water is reused in production. This reduced our water consumption for production by 40 percent, from 1,600 m3 a day to 900 m3. Since 2017 we have also been voluntarily leaving more water in the river Mangfall than required by law: 1,000 l/s rather than the previous 350 l/s.
We also generate electricity locally. For this we use three water turbines, which was modernized in 2014 with a sensor-controlled, fully automatic water inlet that only takes as much water from the river Mangfall as it actually needs.

Environmental consideration(s) generated from implementation

Our project is a holistic view on the lifecycle of a banknote. The results are helping us to fulfil our vision of the most sustainable banknote. So we plan to develop a green concept note by 2021.
What are good banknotes made of, cotton or polymers? Or is a mix of the two even better? If there’s one thing that we’ve learned from our search for a sustainable banknote, it’s that the answers are rarely a straight yes or no. They almost always come with an if or a but attached. Yes, cotton is a renewable resource – but it needs to be produced sustainably and fairly. No, most of the polymers used are not biodegradable – but even an extremely thin foil can make banknotes last three to four times as long. Hydroelectric power is good – as long as you treat the source with care.

The tangible results of the project

Our tangible results are:
• 1.5 GWh saved each year thanks to our cooling system
• 40% less water used in 2019 compared to 2010 – with the help of our wastewater treatment plant
The bundling of sorted and checked banknotes involves lots of plastic waste. Instead we sort banknotes directly into NotaTracc® Tray and seal them securely for transportation. This reduces the amount of packaging material used by 25 percent. Over six years, that means a saving of 483,463 km of coated paper for banding and over 730 tons of shrink foil.
Furthermore we generate almost 25 percent of our electricity locally in a CO2-neutral fashion with three water turbines. We also have a combined heat and power system in the boiler house that burns gas to generate heat for our paper mill, and at the same time –generates electricity. We generate around 10 gigawatt hours of electricity a year.

Feedback from Stakeholders, Including the General Public

Thusfar our customers and the industry has taken great interest in our progress toward Sustainability. We are committed to pursue this objective.


Louisenthal near lake Teg. Mangfall River water. Metalisation residue. Regenerative after burning.

Short fibre waste cotton.



Awards | Technical Awards 2020


Best New Environmental Sustainability Project


Finalist | Winner