The addition of spandex to denim allows hipsters to move freely in skin-tight jeans. Stretchy spandex makes jeans more form-fitting, yet flexible. While that is good news for folks who like jeans so tight that you can count the change in their pockets, spandex posed a challenge for Crane and Co., the mill that produces much of the paper used to make U.S. bills, reported the Washington Post.

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Crane and Co. started as the Liberty Paper Mill in 1777 and produced the paper used by Paul Revere to create banknotes that funded the American Revolution, according to the company’s website. Back in those days, pants were all-cotton garments, so leftover material could be recycled into paper. Cotton-based paper can stand up to the rigors of being a piece of currency.

However, in the 1990s blue jean manufacturers started incorporating spandex into their denim to make their jeans hug a wearers’ hips, or more forgiving of an expanding waistline. Even a tiny bit of spandex made the fabric useless to Crane and Co., according to the Washington Post article.

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Now, Crane and Co. buys cotton directly to make durable paper for Benjamins and other bills. King cotton faces competition in the world of finance though. Besides the rise of electronic and card-cased commerce, plastic bills have largely replaced paper in Canada, Vietnam, Israel and other nations.

The push for plastic bills started in Australia in 1988, with a complete switch to polymer payments in 1996. Plastic bills create difficulties for counterfeiters and allow for greater artistic expression, according to the Bank of Canada.

Since plastic bills last longer, they also reduce the environmental impact of currency. Cotton sucks nutrients from the soil and requires significant processing, a fact that fueled slavery and destroyed the soil of the southern United States. Plastic, although derived from oil, lasts longer than cotton-based bills. A plastic bill can last at least 2.5 times as long as a traditional paper note. That reduction in processing and replacement costs reduces the environmental damage caused by the currency, according to the Bank of Canada.

During my latest visit to my second homeland in Honduras, I used plastic bills. The one Lempira note (Honduran currency) is now plastic, and I loved it! As opposed to a wad of crumpled paper in my pocket, the one Lempira bills maintained their shape and helped keep the other paper denominations crisp by serving as an impromptu protector.

IMAGE: A hipster in repose, depicted in graffiti in Huarte-Uharte, Navarre, Spain (Zarateman, Wikimedia Commons)