Sorting and destruction
Checking if a note is genuine
Banknotes that are returned to an SNB bank office are sorted and checked for authenticity in special sorting machines. Genuine banknotes in good condition are put back into circulation; damaged or soiled ones are destroyed. Notes that the sorting machine does not recognise as genuine are rejected and must be checked manually. Counterfeit banknotes are handed over to the police.
Notes that are fragmented, burnt, decayed, or – due to the improper opening of a security cash box – are dye-stained, or are otherwise severely damaged, are sent to the SNB in Berne for verification.
Destruction of banknotes
The sorting machines used for the processing of banknotes have an integrated shredder, which, in one and the same process, destroys banknotes that have been recognised as genuine but are no longer suitable for circulation. What remain are snippets of banknotes, which are compacted and subsequently taken to the public waste incinerator.
The life span of banknotes
The life span of a banknote varies depending on the denomination. Large denominations tend to have a longer life expectancy than small ones. In 2020, destroyed notes accounted for 35% of all processed notes. This figure is unusually high and is attributable to the introduction of the new banknote series and the associated destruction of incoming notes from the old banknote series.
In 2020, the SNB put 86.8 million freshly printed banknotes with a total nominal value of CHF 15.0 billion into circulation. It destroyed 129.4 million damaged or recalled banknotes with a face value of CHF 56.8 billion.