Thursday April 17, 2008
Japan group turning used dentures into gold mine for charity
TOKYO (AP): Old dentures can be stained and unsightly but for a project raising money for charity, they're a potential gold mine.
The Japan Denture Recycle Association started in December 2006 and so far has recycled 30,000 dentures, generating 18 million yen (US$176,500; euro110,800) for charity.
Project leader Isao Miyoshi estimates if all 3.6 million dentures with precious metals discarded each year in Japan were recycled, they'd be worth up to 7 billion yen (US$68.6 million; euro43.1 million).
"Dentures use parts made of gold, silver, palladium and other precious metals,'' Miyoshi said.
He called the recycled dentures "a treasure mountain'' for the money they can raise for charity.
The group donates half of the funds to UNICEF for needy children around the world, and the rest to local government offices for their welfare projects.
Miyoshi, 64, a company executive, started the denture project after a dentist told him that millions of dentures are discarded every year.
The group now has hundreds of denture drop boxes in government offices around the country. Five rare metal recycling companies have volunteered to collect them and reprocess the valuable parts.
Miyoshi said dentures are proliferating in an aging country where 27 percent of the 127 million people are over the age of 60. A typical set of dentures is about 30 percent gold, silver and palladium, worth about 2,500 yen (US$24.50; euro15.4), he said.