JDRA: Taking a Bite Out of Metals Waste

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Green, Precious Metals

Japanese companies have already shown the world how much they care about rare metals preservation, and the Japanese Denture Recycling Association (JDRA) considers nothing more precious. Their latest  efforts uncover precious metals from dentures and support needy children through simple recycling programs.

“It’s said that Japan has more gold and silver stored in things like metal fixtures in dentures and components for electronic equipment than even South Africa, with its huge gold mines, and Peru, where most of the silver originated,” TreeHugger shares in a recent article. Luckily, Japan’s many recycling initiatives make a big, green difference, and JDRA hopes to make an even larger impact in more ways than one.

Since dentures account for a stockpile of precious metals, the JDRA has drop-boxes at more than 200 Japanese locations for people to leave their old dentures, prime for recovering metals. Plus, kids’ charities hit a gold mine with the new efforts, since charities such as UNICEF receive all profits from the recycling association. “To date, some 9 kg of gold and 6 kg of silver have been recovered, with resulting donations of around $140K to UNICEF and other organizations,” TreeHugger says.

We might imagine, then, the elderly reaching out to the young through this program; the way it must seem in Japan. In the U.S., however, a Washington television station noted a strange stateside trend: young people replacing real teeth with dentures. Although it isn’t the healthiest choice, the troubled economy makes dentures more cost-effective than fillings — until, of course, more care is needed after denture-caused gum problems occur. “In the long run, people who have dentures can lose the bones in their gums and their sense of taste,” the station reports. Still, this town reports a 30 percent increase in dentures, complete with precious metals ready for future recycling.

The number is growing, and there are already 3,600,000 sets of dentures produced worldwide each year. Each complete pair contains $25 worth of precious metals. So does this mean the U.S. could introduce a similar recycling scheme? Maybe… if an inspired recycling company sinks their teeth into the plans.

–Amy Edwards

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