Banknote recycling

The European Union and the ECB have changed the underlying legal conditions for cash processing outside central banks, thereby establishing a binding and harmonised legal framework.

Legal framework

In September 2010, the European Central Bank (ECB) released the decision on the authenticity and fitness checking and recirculation of euro banknotes ECB/2010/14 (hereinafter referred to as the ECB Decision on banknote recycling). This means that since 1 January 2011, a harmonised set of regulations and procedures have been in place for checking and reissuing euro banknotes. The ECB Decision was amended on 7 September 2012 (ECB/2012/19) to take account of the new Europa series of euro banknotes. A further revision was adopted on 5 December 2019. It chiefly concerns the reprocessing of category 3 banknotes identified by cash-recycling machines, and incorporates coin dispensing machines into the ECB Decision for the first time.

The ECB Decision on banknote recycling is based on Council Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001 (amended by Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2009). The entities listed in Article 6 (1) of the amended Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001 are obliged to comply with the provisions contained in the ECB Decision on banknote recycling.

In addition to the ECB’s provisions, the member states were obliged by the Council Regulation to adopt the necessary legal and administrative provisions to enable them to impose sanctions and carry out monitoring activities at the national level. The Bundesbank Act (Gesetz über die Deutsche Bundesbank) was thus amended with effect from 29 December 2011 to allow the Bundesbank to impose sanctions on the said entities which do not comply with their duties to check euro banknotes, as well as to carry out on-site inspections and collect statistical data. In accordance with section 36a of the Bundesbank Act, the details regarding the carrying out of spot checks and the recording of statistical data are governed by the Regulation on the auditing of cash (Bargeldprüfungsverordnung), which has been in force since 1 January 2013.

The obligations for cash handlers to check euro banknotes are defined in sections 36 and 36a of the Bundesbank Act in conjunction with the Regulation on the auditing of cash and section 37a of the Bundesbank Act.