MALANG — Mohammad Yazid, 58, is walking slowly toward a health clinic. His whole body is trembling and he says he has a severe headache. 

He hands over a bag full of plastic refuse along with his Garbage Clinical Insurance card to the clinic staff. “I bring one kilo of plastic and paper waste,” he explains. “I’m glad I can pay for my health care with this. I don’t have to pay anything.”

Another patient, Siti Hasanah, says she suffers from a breathing problem. She too pays for her health care by bringing in waste. “I’m happy,” Hasanah says. “I just bring my garbage here, the medication is free, and the health check is also free.”

Both Yazid and Siti are members of the Garbage Clinical Insurance in Malang, within Indonesia’s East Java province. The clinic serves poor people who pay for their care in exchange for their household waste. 

Members can bring in their waste every Saturday or pay with garbage every time they visit the clinic. The clinic’s 24-year-old founder, Gamal Albinsaid, says he sees economic value in the collection of household waste, which is processed or sold to government-owned Malang Waste Bank. Bank head Rizal Fachrudin says all the refuse is turned into something useful. “We turn the organic waste into fertilizer and worm farms in our area,” he says.

Albinsaid says he chose waste as a kind of currency because it has a lot of potential. “You can imagine that all products will end up as waste,” he says. “The key is to elevate the value of the waste significantly. So we combined the waste potential and insurance concept, and created this. It’s a micro-project. We’re taking the available potential of the people and turning it into a health care fund, and we give back to society in the form of the health care clinic.” 

Albinsaid explains the Garbage Clinical Insurance — Photo: Dhina Chahyatiningsih

The clinic, which has 500 members, was started last year, and now there are five like it across the city. It operates from 4-8 p.m., and dozens of patients line up every day. 

“We’re now focusing on primary health care,” Albinsaid says. “But keep in mind that this is a holistic health care service. So if you’re healthy, we will keep you healthy. We will help prevent healthy people from becoming sick, and rehabilitate those who are ill.”

Albinsaid says he wants to continue to bring goodness, and that he will do it until he is no longer able. 

The local government has welcomed the clinic, says Tri Rachmi, head of Malang Health Office. “We will help the clinic, and will give additional facilities at the office for them.”

For his revolutionary idea, Albinsaid was recently awarded the Prince of Wales’ Young Sustainability Entrepreneur Prize. In a ceremony held at Buckingham Palace, he accepted the honor from Prince Charles with a prize of nearly $70,000 in financial support.