How Indonesia Turns Garbage into Healthcare

Over 60% of Indonesia’s 263 million population does not have health insurance. This happens while the country produces 200,000 tonnes of garbage per day, little of it being recycled. Recognising this, Dr Gamal Albinsaid saw an opportunity to solve both issues at the same time.

Exchanging Garbage for Healthcare

From 2014, Dr Albinsaid has encouraged people to trade garbage for healthcare with his program, Garbage Clinical Insurance (GCI). To access the program, members usually bring 3-4 kg of garbage per month, worth an average of $0.74, to GCI-accredited clinics. In exchange for the money made from converting organic waste into fertiliser and selling inorganic waste to collectors, patients can access medicines, counselling, preventative care and rehabilitation programs for free.

With only 10-15% of people collecting garbage using healthcare services per month, GCI can guarantee quality treatment to patients worth $2-$5 per visit while covering the costs of highly-skilled professionals. It currently employs 15 doctors and 12 nurses, all paid for by recycling waste, alongside 88 volunteers and over 200 medical students.

Does it work?

So far it has given over 3,500 uninsured people access to healthcare, most of whom are farmers working on rice fields just outside of Malang. And thanks to it’s open-source manual on how to replicate its insurance system, the program has spread to over 50 towns and villages across Indonesia.

Very successful, it’s also received international praise. In 2014, GCI won Unilever’s first Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Award, alongside the attention of world leaders including Vladimir Putin. He told Dr Albinsaid during the World Festival of Youth and Students in October, “You handle one of the most important and praiseworthy things, with clear results. This is a special mission, and not just a profession.”

The Future

The program has plans to work with Indonesia’s national health insurance scheme to provide coverage for the whole country. And thanks to Dr Albinsaid’s open-sourced methodology, his insurance system may even be applied to solve other issues such as education

To conclude, GCI uses profits from recycled waste to fund healthcare in Indonesia. It is a sustainable way to manage two of the country’s leading issues: healthcare and waste management. And its success alongside the possibility to replicate its methodology mean that many even beyond Indonesia can benefit GCI’s work.

Annie Lennon

Writer with an insatiable curiosity for people, facts and places. Currently interested in learning more about making our way towards a blue economy.