Garbage Insurance: Now, Trade Trash For Free Health Care

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Gamal Albinsaid, a 26-year-old doctor in Indonesia, lets poor patients pay for their health care with recyclable trash. His innovative idea helps serves two purposes – getting rid of excessive garbage and providing medical services to the needy.

Through Garbage Clinical Insurance (GCI), Albinsaid allows poor residents to collect and drop off trash in exchange for funds that pay for their medical insurance. The clinic turns organic trash into fertilizers and compost, and gets cash back from recyclables. About 4.5 pounds of plastics earns GCI roughly 10,000 Indonesian rupiah, a little less than a dollar, enough to provide one patient with a basic form of insurance, that covers two free monthly visits to the clinic.

In the past two years, GCI has helped 3,500 uninsured people get health care [60% of Indonesians are uninsured]. Albinsaid has also helped solve an environmental challenge for the country, which is the second largest contributor to ocean plastic waste in the world after China.

You have people who can’t go to the hospital because they don’t have money. So I started thinking, if you don’t have money, what do you have? There’s garbage everywhere on the ground. So we decided to use garbage as a financial resource,” he says.

For patients, it’s like getting health care for free. “They think they don’t pay anything for the insurance—they just give garbage. So it persuades the community. And we’re encouraging poor people to pay with their own resources,” he adds.

In 2013, Albinsaid won a €50,000 prize at the Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Awards. “We’re changing people’s perceptions and habits towards garbage. I believe if the positives of this problem are made known, it will excite a lot more people into adopting it,” Albinsaid notes.


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