De La Rue’s SAFEGUARD Expansion and Reduced Environmental Impact

Product Owner: De La Rue

Date the Program was first implemented


Project Description

In September 2020 De La Rue committed £20m CapEx to expanding its capacity for SAFEGUARD polymer production, including a new polymer line, buildings and auxilaries. In parallel it ran product development projects to further reduce the environmental impact of SAFEGUARD (e.g. enabling SAFEGUARD to be printed on with lower levels of spoil), helping to make SAFEGUARD the most sustainable choice for central banks considering the impact of their cash cycles.

Sustainability was a key driver behind the £20m investment and parallel product development projects – polymer banknotes are well documented by several central banks and independent studies as reducing the environmental impact of banknotes in circulation.

Furthermore, the expansion project was delivered with sustainability in mind, selecting options for build, equipment and specifications that further reduce the environmental impact of SAFEGUARD.

This major investment in time and effort represents a signficant way that De La Rue can now help with the reduction of the environmental impact of cash cycles around the world. Our banknotes are 100% recycleable, use 96% less water than paper banknotes and create 60% less waste than paper banknotes.

Countr(ies) where implemented

The polymer expansion was in our UK site in Westhoughton, but has allowed polymer production that helps reduce the environmental impact of cash cycles in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Innovative, unique, and/or inventive aspects of the project

The equipment invested in was designed to De La Rue’s unique specification. We applied knowledge from our previous experience producing SAFEGUARD to customise and advise on the specification of the proprietary 2nd polymer line, advising down to factors such as the optimal angles and lengths of the equipment.

The product development projects compiled knowledge from running SAFEGUARD in 15 commercial secure print works + De La Rue sites to optimised the construction of SAFEGUARD, leading to a substrate that runs faster and produces 2.3% less spoil than earlier generations of the product.

Environmental sustainability challenge/problem

If banknotes last longer and look good for longer in the cash cycle then fewer banknotes are needed and less waste is generated. There are also fewer trips needed to return used notes to the central bank or to deliver new banknotes to replace those new banknotes.

SAFEGUARD polymer was first issued into circulation in April 2013 and represents De La Rue’s solution to helping central banks reduce their environmental impact. As of the end of 2022 the mass transition to SAFEGUARD has led to central banks requiring 22.5 billion fewer banknotes, saving almost 150,000 tonnes of Co2 from just manufacturing alone. It has also led to reduced transportation and an increase in ability recycle used banknotes.

With polymer banknotes representing just under 5% of all banknotes issued today, this project addressed the need for additional capacity to enable more central banks to benefit from the lower impact of polymer.

Level of Expected/Proven impact on Environment

Investment included:

  • A sheeter and inspection machine (reduces the sheeter waste produced by around 15% vs the previous machine)
  • A regenerative thermal oxidiser with heat recovery, leading to polymer production with the potential for 80% lower gas reduction
  • Compressed air high efficient compressors, reducing energy demand by 30%
  • Solar panels commissioned for the expanded site
  • Energy monitoring in place for processes (and then used to feed precise Life Cycle Analysis CFP modelling)
  • High efficiency ventilation systems with low-energy adiabatic cooling and fans

Sustainable decisions selected:

  • 100% purchased renewable power
  • LED lighting selected for expanded site
  • 100% polymer waste recycled
  • Zero waste to landfill in our Westhoughton site
  • Insulation retrofits to the new building purchased
  • Commitment to replant 2 trees for 1 impacted during construction
  • Reviewing biodiversity with potential for insect and bird habitats

Manufacturing optimisation projects to reduce polymer waste through operational efficiencies. Improved SAFEGUARD with 2.3% less waste.

Organization’s commitment to environmental sustainability

We have committed to transparency and driving meaningful change whilst aligning to internationally recognised best practice throughout our sustainability journey. This sustained focus since 2002 means that today we are the only company in the currency industry recognised as a European Climate Leader by the Financial Times. We are also the only company with commitments to the Science Based Targets Initiative that have been validated as leading to meaningful change by the SBTI.

Our achievements include:

  • Transparent reporting of scope 1 & 2 emissions since 2002
  • UK operations ISO 14001 certified in 2003. ISO 14001 rolled out to all oeprations by 2011.
  • Annual reporting to the Carbon Disclosure Project began in 2010
  • Alignment to and membership of the UN Global Compact since 2016
  • First ever carbon neutral banknote via 3rd party validated off-setting in 2019
  • All UK sites on renewable energy since 2020
  • Commitment to ICA and UK Cash industry charters

    Extra information
    Further details and supporting evidence about the benefits of SAFEGUARD

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Awards | Currency Awards 2023


Best New Environmental Sustainability Project