The main symbol of Ukraine's independence and everyday attribute of Ukrainians - hryvnia - has celebrated its 17th birthday this year. On this occasion the National Bank of Ukraine has lifted the veil over the place where hryvnia is born and showed journalists the work of the Banknote paper factory in Malin city of Zhytomyr region.

Sanctum sanctorum
The factory was put into operation on April 1, 1997, director of the NBU Banknote paper factory Vasyl Ishchenko told. "We want to show you the production process of the bill paper for the national currency. This enterprise is unique. It is the only one in Ukraine, and not every country of the world has similar factories. The main production of the factory is banknote paper for the National bank, but Ukraine also needs other types of paper with security features, thus we also manufacture paper for passports, excise stamps, bonds, etc. On this factory we make 12 types of security," Ishchenko told journalists.

"Now factory produces more than 3100 tons of banknote and other types of protected paper annually. The amount of paper web produced last year would be enough to wrap Earth along the equator. And with the paper produced for 17 years of work we could pave the road from Earth to the Moon. We manufacture paper of the best European samples on the best equipment, supplied from leading countries of the world (England, France, Germany, US, Japan). Moreover, for four years we have been manufacturing banknote paper for Indian rupees, and last year we produced and supplied paper to a French company.  It tells about the level of production and is confirmed by certification in accordance with international standards ISO-9 001 and ISO-14 001," the director speaks proudly about the achievements.

The factory also cares about environment, using almost zero waste  technologies, and about its workers, paying various compensations depending on the difficulty level of work. "In places where it is very noisy or there are high temperatures, workers are paid compensations according to Ukrainian legislation, including additional days-off and diary products," Ishchenko informed. 

In fact, the enterprise cares about its workers so much, because good specialists are very rare. According to Ishchenko, personnel get recruited in Ukraine, but undergo training abroad. "Considering that the production process is unique, some professions can be taught only abroad. Equipment supply contracts also provide for training of specialists, either in Ukraine or abroad, but not all specialists can be found in Ukraine," he said and added that such workers cannot use their knowledge to forge currency. "It is a very complex process, which requires special conditions for storing and manufacturing. It cannot be home made," Ishchenko is convinced. Moreover, the factory has multilevel security system, and no violations have been registered for 16 years of work.     
How cotton turns into paper
The theatre begins with the cloakroom, and Banknote paper factory - with cotton storage.

"The factory manufactures three groups of paper, different in raw material components. The first group, banknote paper, is made of cotton, the second one, safety paper, - of chemical wood-pulp, and the last group - of mixed components. Raw materials arrive from Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Middle Asia. We hold tenders for suppliers. At the beginning we used dirty cotton, but we have optimized the purchase conditions and reached minimal waste production process," chief industrial engineer of the factory Lubov Vovk says.

Then cotton undergoes the process of shredding, cleaning and fiber opening.

The next stage of manufacturing process includes boiling and bleaching. "Cotton is packed with water, pressed into special baskets and placed into turbostats. At this stage the manufacturing processes of banknote and regular paper vary. 

The bleach is based on peroxide, which splits under high temperature into water and oxygen, and free oxygen is the principal bleaching component. With this process fibers remain strong and whiteness is lasting. In the result, we get rather long grain, which must be shredded and given paper-forming properties," the engineer explains. 

During the next stage, banknote linen get mixed with 10-12% of waste (cut or wrinkled banknote paper, which has never become hryvnia), colours and mineral matters. This mass goes to the papermaking machine. "This equipment is unique. It creates cylinder mould watermark, which differs banknote paper from the rest. The watermark is shaded and repeats the portrait, printed later on the banknote," she explained.

Ready rolls get checked manually. "The automatic quality control system has very tough requirements for paper quality, and it happens that after manual control a part of banknote paper, recognized by the machine as second-class, gets approved for the first-class and sent for wrapping. Air conditioners keep constant temperature in this room, comfortable for paper sheets," Vovk adds.


After such long, but magical processing the rolls get delivered to the Mint in Kyiv for printing national currency of all face values. And then hryvnias arrive in banks and our purses to be put in further circulation.   

Tetyana Hryhoriyeva, photos by Viktor Kovalchuk


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