Trash, Sweat and Tears: The Modern Malaysia Day Celebrations | The Full Frontal

Trash, Sweat and Tears: The Modern Malaysia Day Celebrations


We rejoice about the hard-fought battles to gain independence, in exchange for the freedom to litter on the very land our ancestors died to claim. Kinda sad, right? One can’t help but notice that we’ve not only developed our own brand of ignorance for the cleanliness of our environment, but we’ve also let our next generation take after us too. 

Change comes from within. Photo by

For many Malaysians, the concept of littering is not something we spend a lot of time pondering about, given all the other worries our lives entail. At the local mamak, you’ll find that a conversation about the introduction Jawi calligraphy in schools to be much more common than that of our streets being filled with rubbish.

Hours after the crowds roared with patriotic spirit to celebrate 62 years of independence, KLCC Park seemed to be comparatively deserted, all but one young Malaysian remains. Piece by piece, he picks up the trash left behind while lamenting his disappointment.

Beauty up above, beastly down below. Photo by

The pictures speak for themselves. Masses of water bottles, cans, straws, cups and plastic bags – it sounds like a recipe for an environmental catastrophe. Through the looking glass, the scene appears to be precisely what many environmentalists have feared – yet another year of irresponsible waste disposal at a massive public celebration. In the words of the Malaysian with the dirtiest palms on-site after the Merdeka crowds receded, “a country’s success cannot be measured by the height of their skyscrapers, the strength of their military or the size of its land, but by its own people”. We couldn’t agree more with Aiman’s sentiments! As a nation, it is vital that we combat our generation’s ignorance of proper waste management! Which is a fancier way of saying we have to start picking up after ourselves.

So common that it’s becoming the norm. Photo by

Despite this, issues with trash aren’t new to Malaysia. Boasting 38,000 tonnes of waste daily, one can’t help but wonder where Malaysians are going to unload all this trash when our landfills reach maximum capacity. More often than not, we’re guilty of neglecting whether we are making nearly enough progress to stop ourselves from drowning in single-use plastic. Will we continue to turn a blind eye to these irreparable harms that come with our new synthetic world, or will we switch gears and back our way out of this literal mess we’ve created?

Despite this, it is something that should garner more attention given the future risks that poses it to our society and environment. It’s easier said than done, unfortunately: old habits die hard. However, we mustn’t lose faith in cultivating the habit of disposing of our trash properly. 

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Are we truly Merdeka? Photo by Sampah, Menyampah

Over the years, more than a handful of organizations, such as Trash Hero Malaysia and Hello Pangkor, have been founded to fight for proper waste disposal. Read more about Hello Pangkor’s initiative here. Have some spare time this week? Perfect! We’ve got a list of environmental organizations who could use a volunteer or two! 

Plogging effort goes a plong way. Photo by plogginglah on Instagram