03/26/2012 05:31 EDT | Updated 05/26/2012 05:12 EDT

New plastic $50 bills go into circulation

Canada’s newest bank notes — $50 bills made from a plastic polymer — started circulating Monday.

Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney marked the event at the Canadian Coast Guard’s Quebec port facility.

The front of the new note features a portrait of Sir William Lyon Mackenzie King, while the back depicts the Arctic research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen.

Canadians who want to get their hands on the bills can do so at banks and other financial institutions across the country.

The notes replace current cotton-and-paper bills and are designed to last longer and thwart counterfeiters.

"Counterfeiting rates have been reduced by 90 per cent since 2004," Carney said.

"And by regularly checking the leading-edge security features on these new notes, Canadians can help protect themselves from counterfeiting threats," he added.

The security features include two transparent areas, one extending from the top to the bottom of the note and containing complex holographic features and the other in the shape of a maple leaf.

There are more plastic notes to come.

The $20 bill will be issued later this year, with the $10 and $5 notes to be released by the end of 2013. The polymer $100 note is already in circulation.