They Keep Quiet So We Make Noise
Ride along with two activists from the Environmental Protection Agency of Kuala Langat, Malaysia, in search of illegal plastics recycling facilities.
Directed by Marlena Skrobe
Executive Producer: Yoshitaka Ota
Cinematography: Troy Dobbertin
Editors: Marlena Skrobe, Troy Dobbertin
Writer: Marlena Skrobe
In Jenjarom, a small palm plantation town approximately 50 kilometers outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the smell of burnt plastic crept across the town every night entering the homes of residents, stirring them awake. After months of sleepless nights, a few local residents decided to investigate the source of the smell, forming the Environmental Protection Agency of Kuala Langat.
"Essential viewing for students to observe some of the local environmental impacts of globalization" Mark Henderson, Prof Public Policy, Northeastern Univ
Under cover of night, ride along with agency activists Pua Lay Peng and CK Lee as they search for illegal recycling facilities, and learn about their work to expose, fight, and prevent the illegal importation of plastic waste.
Grade Level: 10 - 12, College, Adults
US Release Date: 2023
Copyright Date: 2021
DVD ISBN: 1-961192-01-2
"This record of the inexcusable destruction and poisoning of Malaysian land and people is devastating, and the bravery of these local activists inspiring. It is not just that our globalized 'system' of plastics recycling is broken; Malaysia's dirty recyclers are small players in a bigger system, the tip of the iceberg. It is the plastics manufacturers, petrochemical and packaging industries that must be held accountable for these crimes, as the vast majority of the plastics documented here have no safe and economically viable means of being recycled anywhere on the planet. Until we stop making these materials, they will be an environmental scourge."
Joshua Lewis Goldstein, Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Southern California
"This is a compelling account of the hidden costs, social justice dimensions and human health consequences of plastic consumption."
Leah Gerber, Professor of Conservation Science, Director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Arizona State University
"They Keep Quiet So We Make Noise provides an important perspective on the fate of recycled plastics and how just placing recyclables in the proper bin does little to guarantee that it is treated properly down the chain. It also highlights the importance of grassroots environmental organizations in places where recycled plastics are exported to and the struggles that they face protecting the health of their communities. This film hits on a lot of topics that I cover in Environmental Science and Conservation Biology classes, and could help inform recycling and waste management education and inspire future environmental advocates."
Matthew Lundquist, Assistant Professor of Biology, Marymount Manhattan College
"The unending stream of plastic waste now carries our discarded bottles and packaging to places like the illegal 'recycling' factories in Malaysia, which reclaim the most valuable fraction and burn or dump the rest. With regulators unable or unwilling to crack down, the local activists featured in They Keep Quiet So We Make Noise call on the exporting countries to bear their share of the hidden costs of the global waste trade. This video is essential viewing for students to observe some of the local environmental impacts of globalization and for communities to see how their local waste management choices have global repercussions."
Mark Henderson, Professor of Public Policy, Mills College at Northeastern University
"They Keep Quiet So We Make Noise provides an impactful glimpse at one of many 'aways' that underlie the globalized plastic recycling industry, highlighting local resistance to polluting processors. The film will be an excellent educational resource for grappling with what happens beyond recycling bins."
Adam Liebman, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology, DePauw University, Author, Uncontained: Waste Circulations in and Beyond China (forthcoming)
"Viewing the 12-minute film leaves ample time for in-class discussion of solutions to reduce plastic use and find sustainable recycling methods and markets so countries can deal with the plastic waste created within their borders."
Maggie Knapp, School Library Journal
"They Keep Quiet So We Make Noise is recommended for advanced high school classes and college courses such as biology, ecology, and environmental studies. It is short enough to be weaved into lesson plans or assigned as homework in areas related to waste management, recycling, or global environmentalism. The mountains of plastic waste strewn throughout much of this film's landscape should serve as a sobering wakeup call that deficient plastic recycling techniques and inadequate waste management processes are major concerns that the world must address."
Erica Swenson Danowitz, Delaware County Community College, Educational Media Reviews Online
DVDs include public performance rights.
DVD includes English subtitles
Awards and Festivals
Audience Award, Best Documentary Short, Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Best Documentary Short, Berlin Short Film Festival
Best Documentary Short, Rome Independent Cinema Festival
Exceptional Merit, Nature Without Borders Int'l Film Festival
Best Documentary Short, Beyond Earth Film Festival
Best Documentary Short, Golden Sparrow Int'l Film Festival
Planet In Focus Int'l Environmental Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival
Kuala Lumpur Int'l Eco Film Festival
Calgary International Film Festival
Sonoma International Film Festival
Eugene Environmental Film Festival
NewFilmmakers Los Angeles
Melbourne Short Film Festival
Livable Planet Film Festival
Palm Springs International ShortFest
Transitions Film Festival
I Will Tell International Film Festival
All Living Things Environmental Film Festival
Climate Action Film Festival
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