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Hazard Handler
February 22, 2012 at 11:01 am, by Administrator

Hospital Construction is booming – and will create plenty of medical waste. Arah environtmental aims to solve that problem.

The medical sector is booming, with plenty of new hospitals opening or under construction. The medical waste they generate requires special handling, due to the health and safety issues. In most developed economies, the handling and disposal of medical waste is a mature industry.

Hazard Handler
In Indonesia, medical waste service is still largely a no man's land. In 2008 Edwin Widjaja established PT Arah Environmental Indonesia to fill that gap. He was inspired to do so after being offered to help a malaysian investment company in waste management services, PT Jasa Medivest, to set up the first and biggest medical waste processing plant in Indonesia located in Karawang.

Now the company is handling five tonnes of medical waste per day in five cities in the country and growing fast. Its client are more than 40 big hospitals, small clinics, medical laboratories and event tatoo artist.

This year Arah Environmental Indonesia was awarded the second place in the non-technology category for startups held by the Global Enterpreneurship Program Indonesia (GEPI) – the U.S State Department's initiative to support and empower entrepreneurs in Muslim communities worldwide.

“Five years from now we want to be the biggest medical waste player and benchmark for the industry in the country. We want to achieve that although we know it will be a major challenge,” Edwin says. The company's target in that time is to expand to 15 cities, handling 19 tonnes of medical waste per day, and boosting its annual revenue from $2 million to $9 million. Arah environmental charge large client Rp.8.000 per kilogram of waste. For smaller customers, services are charged a volume-based flat fee.

Edwin is a specialist in this field. Since 1997 he had been working in hazardous waste management abroad and felt that similar business could do well in Indonesia as hazardous waste and medical waste ratio is among the lowest in the region with 0.2 kilogram per bed per day, while in Malaysia 0.7 kilogram and in Singapore 0.9 kilogram. Part of the reason for the low ratio is the lack of proper segregation of medical waste. In Indonesia, medical waste supposed to be separated from ordinary waste in reality is it often sold to scavengers for recycling. Other improper practices include hospitals that burn their waste or ship it out for burning elsewhere. Edwin claims that sometimes even ambulanced are used to transport the waste. These improper practices present health hazards, and could cause infections among patients or those living near hospitals.

What Arah Environmental offer is proper handling, transportation and disposal of medical waste. The company provides special trash bins for medical waste that are picked up, weighted and transported in a special truck to a facility where it is properly burned. All the waste is tracked from the origin to final disposal, to provide a record of proper handling, and are transported to PT. Prasadha Pamunah limbah Industry, the first facility of its type in Indonesia, for use in land fill. Arah Environmental employees who make direct contact with the medical waste are vaccinated to protect their health.

“We are not just offering to dispose of their medical waste. We also give our c;ients an education abput the concepts behind the medical waste management, including nurses and cleaning staff,” Edwin says.

Clients say they appreciate the benefits. Pramono Suci, head of the legal and public relations department at Pelni Hospital in Jakarta, says that it is more practical for the hospital to hire qualified third parties to do their waste removal than do it themselves. “We don't have to worry about compliance related to the environmental impact or other government regulations related to medical waste management,” Pramono says, since Arah Environment is also making sure that its clients comply with those rules.

But making hospitals change their behaviour is not easy. Edwin says even doctor who are aware of the dangers of medical waste are often unwilling to pay the extra cost for proper disposal. Nurses often throw away syringes into regular trash cans and forget to use the special bins for this. Arah Environmental is hiring two staff, trained in sociology, to create more awareness. “What we really need is a govenrment willingness to enforce the existing regulations on hazardous waste management, so there is both a reward and punishment to make them effective,” Edwin says.

Arah Environmental is also starting to expand to the bigger and more general category of hazardous wastes. The potential is much bigger than in medical waste, which is estimated to a account for less than 2% of total waste produced. Hazardous waste includes items such as insecticidies, hair spray and even used light bulbs.

“The scheme would be on volume based, using the same method that we already use to charge our smaller medical waste customers,” Edwin says. Another step would be to bring in strategic investor to help with this expansion, says Edwin, who has a 39% indirect ownership. Edwin says it is still early days but the opportunity is in the market now. “We're coming in the right time, a bit early but at the right time,” he says.