The Bank of England announced this weekthat the next £5 and £10 banknotes will be printed on polymer, a thin flexible plastic film, rather than on the cotton paper used for notes currently in issue.

The Bank of England said this week it would discontinue paper currency after 300 years and begin printing its smaller bills -- 5 and 10 pound notes -- on a polymer beginning in 2016.

The new polymer notes will retain the familiar look of Bank of England banknotes, the bank said, including the portrait Queen Elizabeth.

The first polymer note will be the 5-pound note featuring Winston Churchill in 2016. It will be followed around a year later by a polymer 10-pound note featuring Jane Austen.

The bank said it is making the change because plastic bills are more durable, are resistant to moisture and would stay cleaner longer. The material also allows for more advanced anti-counterfeiting measures.

And, the notes are cheaper to produce than paper, the bank said. The new bills will be slightly smaller to save additional cost, but the current practice of note size increasing with note denomination will be maintained.

"Polymer notes are the next step in the evolution of banknote design," Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, told the BBC.

The embarked on a two-month campaign to collect public feedback. Of the nearly 13,000 individuals gave feedback, 87 percent of those who responded were in favor of polymer, 6 percent were opposed and 7 percent were neutral, the bank said.

Canada and Australia recently began printing polymer currency, as have about two dozen other countries. The United States has no immediate plans to discontinue its paper bills.