Some years ago, Gamal Albinsaid -a 26 year old doctor in Indonesia- learned about a young girl who died from a disease which could have been cured easily, just because her parents couldn’t afford health care. Unfortunately this case wasn’t the only one in Indonesia; about 60% of Indonesians are uninsured.
“You have many people who cannot go to a hospital because they don’t have money,” Albinsaid says. “So I started thinking, if you don’t have money, what do you have?” The answer he came up with was a surprising one. “There’s garbage everywhere in Indonesia,” he says. “So we decided to use garbage as a financial resource.”
How does it work? Every month, patients bring in a certain amount of recyclables—for example, around 4.5 pounds of bottles and other plastics, or 11 pounds of cardboard—to a health clinic. When it’s recycled, the trash earns the clinic 10,000 Indonesian rupiah, a little less than a dollar. And that’s enough to provide the patient with a basic form of insurance that covers two free monthly visits to the clinic.
Albinsaid has been running his startup, Garbage Clinical Insurance, for two years now. So far it has helped 3,500 uninsured people get health care. “We believe health is a fundamental human right,” he says. The company’s approach also helps solving an environmental challenge for the country, which is the second largest contributor to ocean plastic waste in the world, after China. Now, their garbage-as-barter approach is inspiring other companies, too. “Some people want to use this idea for education,” Albinsaid says. “So people can modify the system to solve different problems.”