Isao Miyoshi with fasle teeth collection box A somewhat unusual recycling initiative will see false teeth collection boxes set up at nine different locations in the southern Japanese city of Fukuoka.
About 80% of the surprisingly large proceeds are being donated to charity.
Now we all know that governments everywhere use fiscally sound practices when spending taxpayer's money. Sure they do. So, are these denture deposit boxes just another example of government waste and pork-barrelling?
Maybe not - it seems that the Fukuoka Municipal Government is simply responding to the Japan Society for the Recycling of Dentures, a non-profit organization founded and headed by Isao Miyoshi. Since December 2006, the JSRD has worked to set up false teeth collection boxes in other cities across Japan.
At this point you would be forgiven for asking, "who chucks their choppers?" One might think that if there is a problem of some sort, you would see a dentist for a fix-up instead of just tossing the teeth in the trash. It's not that simple.
"People on average get new dentures every three years, because the condition of their teeth changes," according to the 63-year-old Miyoshi.
"Once the new ones are made, dentists usually give the old ones back to the patients. But most people don't know what to do with them and they end up keeping them in their drawers. That's really a waste of something useful."
When dentures are recycled under the JSRD program, precious metals including gold, silver and palladium are extracted and sold. About 80 percent of the proceeds are then given to charities like UNICEF Japan. An average set of false teeth can produce about 3,000 yen (about $28) in saleable metal, an amount equivalent to the cost of 8 blankets.
After gaining some publicity through the Japanese media, Miyoshi's office began to receive a virtual flood of used dental work through the collection boxes and direct mail-ins. The organization's first donation of funds to UNICEF Japan amounted to a whopping 1,036,102 yen ($10,570) - after only 2 months!
"You know, "sums up Miyoshi, "they say that Japanese society has lots of problems, but I really feel the warmth and kindness of elderly people through this. It makes me think that this society still isn't so bad." (via Mainichi Daily News and The Japan Times, images by Setsuko Kamiya)