Paper Money

BEP reports Single Note Inspection system prevents millions in waste

Single Note Inspection is a reclamation process that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has been touting for close to a decade. It was first used on $100 notes in 2014, and the BEP says it has provided significant cost savings and waste reduction.

Single Note Inspection, or SNI, inspects and sorts out notes that are fit for circulation that otherwise would have been destroyed, by reclaiming good notes, even if just one out of 50, from defective sheets. But the process of implementing it has been slow.

By 2017, the BEP delivered 1 billion $100 Federal reserve notes that were processed with SNI equipment. The cost savings was more than $70 million, thanks to eliminating the need to print additional new notes and buy more raw materials. In the Fort Worth, Texas, facility alone, 138.68 million $100 notes were salvaged, meaning 3,507 tons of additional materials were not needed.

Despite such success, in 2018 BEP Director Len Olijar recapped for the House Financial Services Committee why the implementation process was so slow. “Currency production equipment is very unique and takes years to purchase, build, test, and install. Recognizing this, we have increased efficiency by 13% at the DCF (Washington, D.C.) by refurbishing, extending the life, and relocating a 30-year-old currency production press from the WCF (Fort Worth, Texas). The press is now the most productive press of its kind at DCF. Installation of Single Note Inspection (SNI) equipment in 2015 allows BEP to reclaim good notes from defective sheets. This reclamation process has reduced overall spoilage by two-thirds. These efficiencies have saved us more than $100 million since their introduction. In addition, the reduced spoilage eliminated more than 300 tons of non-hazardous waste.”

The Bureau’s 2019 Annual Report went further. In 2018, the Fort Worth plant reclaimed 17.97 million $20 notes and 139 million $100 notes, and eliminated 3,960 tons of extra material usage. It also revealed that the system had expanded and was also used on the $1 and $20 denominations in addition to the $100 note. In 2019, the savings increased to 269 million notes reclaimed in Fort Worth and 14 million in Washington, D.C. The savings was 76 tons of ink and 3.3 tons of solvent and 710,000 gallons of waste water, not creating 2.5 tons of air pollutants, and avoiding an extra 78 tons of industrial solid waste.

The latest development, according to BEP spokesperson Lydia Washington, is that SNI has also been approved for use with $5 notes. All notes currently being printed at both the Washington and Fort Worth facilities are Series 2017A, so the new series designation is not an indicator of notes produced using SNI. There are no visible differences between the Series 2017 and 2017A notes, and the BEP says there are no discernible differences between Series 2017 and Series 2017A notes. BEP officials have said that the series designation change is a “discretionary series change” used to mark certain materials or process changes to allow parties involved in the production process to identify them, but officials will not disclose further information out of security concerns.

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