The Taipei Dental Association has found a novel way to turn trash into treasure by recycling used dental crowns and bridges and donating the proceeds to local charities.
"If we can mobilize all the dental clinics in Taiwan, the recycling of used crowns and bridges could bring in up to NT$70 million per year," said Andrew Kou (葛建埔), president of the Taipei Dental Association Board of Executives.
Kou said that each month a dental clinic accumulates about 100g of gold, silver and platinum from old crowns and bridges. Currently each clinic disposes of the metals independently, with most clinics treating it as regular waste.
"Crowns and bridges are usually thrown away and burned with other dental waste after they are removed, but burning this waste actually creates environmental pollution. Recycling them would be much more environmentally friendly," Kou said.
The association has been working on its plan to centralize the recycling of crowns and bridges for the past 18 months.
"Dental clinics would store the used crowns and bridges in special disinfected packaging, and the association would collect them once a year. The money we get from recycling would go to a charity," Kou said.
Because each clinic only collects small amounts of waste metal, it makes sense to collect and recycle the material annually, Kou said.
The association plans to donate the money collected each year in a lump sum.
"We don't plan on starting a foundation. All the money made from recycling would go straight to a charity. We hope to make donations towards the education of underprivileged children," Kou said.
However, the association needs to get approval from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) before it can implement its plans.
"The DOH holds that the association does not have the right to collect and recycle the crowns and bridges and that dental clinics should deal with recycling centers on an individual basis," said Chou Shih-yung (周世永), executive secretary of the Taipei Dental Association.
The DOH's Medical Affairs Bureau section chief Kao Wen-hui (高文惠) said that materials for recycling are divided into two categories.
"The first category consists of common recycling materials such as paper and cans. These materials can be recycled and collected by anyone. The second category is more complex, and generally the waste has to be inspected by the DOH before it can be collected and recycled. Dental crowns and bridges fall into the second category," Kao said.