PT Holcim Indonesia: Co-processing the right prescription in Indonesia.

PT Holcim Indonesia: Co-processing the right prescription in Indonesia

In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that devastated Banda Aceh, and the earthquake that rocked the island of Nias, much of the medicine that made its way in to Indonesia as part of medical aid flooding the country proved unusable - past the expiry date, damaged due to improper storage in the disaster zones or labeled in foreign languages. In such a turbulent context, large quantities of unusable medicine carry a high risk of being sold on the black market. The government and aid agencies faced the problem of drug disposal, and Holcim Indonesia offered a safe solution.

Holcim Indonesia offered its help when the urgent need to find a safe solution to dispose of the medicine was raised by organizations such as Pharmacists Without Borders (PSF). Approval for the project involved various stakeholders from local government and NGOs, such as the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in Aceh, the World Health Organization (WHO) and an aid program sponsored by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

The unusable medicine was thermally destroyed by co-processing in the cement kiln of Holcim Indonesia's Narogong plant. Collecting, transporting and co-processing were completed in June and July 2006, with AusAID and the Reconstruction Agencies for Banda Aceh and Nias sharing the cost.

Co-processing represented an environmentally friendly solution for disposing of a hazardous waste that could potentially contaminate water and soil. In this particular case, it also ensured the drugs could not be sold on the black market and potentially cause serious harm to people's health.

The communication, consensus-seeking and fundraising process proved time-consuming and challenging, mostly due to the novelty and importance of the issue. But overall, the project has helped position Holcim Indonesia as a well-respected partner among the international and local aid agencies operating in the country. It has since carried out similar work for the World Health Organization and the Red Cross.

Holcim Indonesia is now working on a similar project to destroy unusable medicine received following the Yogjakarta earthquake. It is also exploring the possibility of working with the Indonesian Ministry of Health to provide routine co-processing of expired medicines from the country's hospitals.