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Domestic waste policy in Ireland – economization and the role of accounting

Martin Quinn (Queen's Management School, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK)
Orla Feeney (Business School, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 9 September 2020

Issue publication date: 4 November 2020




This paper examines how accounting concepts were utilised in domestic waste collection services in Ireland over the past two decades or so. In comparison to other former “free” services in the Irish context, the prevalence of accounting concepts has been greater and delivered a more successful outcome.


Drawing on the concepts of calculation, the “economic” and economization, events around domestic waste policy in Ireland are examined, and the increasing prevalence of concepts such as price, cost and profitability in these processes are a focal point. Publicly available documents such as government policy documents, parliamentary records and media reports are utilised to draw out these concepts. The period of analysis is 1996–2018.


The findings reveal the role of accounting concepts in the economization of domestic waste policy in Ireland. The result of the economization process was a fully privatised, profit-oriented, price-monitored system.

Research limitations/implications

This research provides a broad view of accounting concepts in the management of domestic waste. It highlights how waste policy in Ireland travelled through instances of being political and economic over time. The research is limited by its use of secondary data.


This study highlights how accounting concepts were used in varying ways to bring about a satisfactory solution to domestic waste disposal in Ireland, namely the privatisation of waste services.



The authors would like to thank the Editor and the two anonymous reviewers for their kind and useful comments. We would also like to acknowledge 1) comments from participants at the Irish Accounting and Finance Association Annual Conference 2017, where an early version of this paper were presented, and 2) comments from colleagues at the Institute for Strategy and Managerial Accounting (IfU) at WU Vienna where the paper was presented to an invited research seminar in early 2020.


Quinn, M. and Feeney, O. (2020), "Domestic waste policy in Ireland – economization and the role of accounting", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 33 No. 8, pp. 2111-2138.



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