Banks go green, purists see red (Poll Inside)
It’s a case of the disappearing new banknotes, much to the dismay of traditionalists wanting to hand out ang pow containing crisp currency.
In fact, many celebrants said there was still a demand for new notes during Chinese New Year, especially among those who want to give the red packets to their elders.
But a rise in environmental awareness over the years has led to a number of banks reducing the quantity of new notes being given out during the festive period.
Instead, celebrants are encouraged to recycle banknotes.
“It just won’t be the same. Spring is a time of renewal, we want new notes!” said retiree KF Lim, 90.
(Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival.)
Lim said he was disappointed to find out from the bank he frequented in Kota Damansara, Selangor, that it would not be offering new notes to its customers this year.
“In previous years, there was never a problem getting new notes from the bank to be used for Chinese New Year ang pow.
“But this year, they have stopped the practice. I can’t get any new notes even though I am a privileged customer,” he lamented.
Lim said he would withdraw money from the ATM and pick out the “better-looking” notes to put in ang pow.
Raymond Tan, a freelancer, said he would usually ask his friends who work in banks to exchange new notes for him.
But this year he was told that such fresh notes are not available.
“So I can only use half-new notes for ang pow given to my family,” said Tan, 45.
Although he accepted the need to protect the environment, Tan said he wanted to uphold the ang pow tradition.
As such, he suggested that there be a reduction in the quantity of new notes instead of stopping their issuance altogether.
Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia (Huazong) women’s chief Datuk Natalie Lim Chong Ly believes that using new banknotes for ang pow “represents good intentions, similar to wearing new clothes”.
The tradition of giving new notes to family members and elders should be maintained, she said.
However, she suggested that “recycled” notes be used in ang pow given to friends.
Acknowledging the rising environmental awareness, she said that banks could reduce the quantity of new banknotes and provide “half-new” ones instead.
Additionally, she said that banks and businesses should prioritise quality over quantity when printing ang pow envelopes to minimise the impact on the environment.
“By creating unique and visually appealing envelopes, people are more likely to value and keep them rather than discard them,” she added.
An executive of a foreign bank stated that the bank no longer provided new notes, distributing only recycled bank notes.
Another bank employee said that the bank reserves “half new” notes for their regular customers.
He said limited quantities of new notes can be exchanged during specific times.
The Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM), together with Bank Negara, have been promoting the Go Green campaign during major festivals in recent years.
“This Go Green campaign encourages the use of electronic ang pow (e-angpow) for added convenience.”
As such, the ABM said it was encouraging those celebrating the Chinese New Year to use e-angpow which is “convenient as well as environmentally-friendly.”
In a reply to The Star, it said that those who wanted to give out physical ang pow could use “fit” banknotes.
This practice would reduce carbon emissions and conserve resources, while still conveying the same well wishes to loved ones, it added.
The ABM also pointed out that similar initiatives had been adopted by other countries in the region.
Housewife Grance Low, 28, started giving e-angpow to friends a few years ago to avoid the inconvenience of queuing at the bank to get new notes.
However, she still gives out physical ang pow to children and elders using semi-new notes to maintain a personal touch, besides keeping to the festive mood.