Not everything you think is being recycled actually is
There are no boundaries when it comes to waste.
Accounting practices in the management of Australia’s garbage are so ad hoc, there’s little guarantee of where it ends up – or even if it’s being disposed of responsibly.
“If you throw stuff in a council bin, there’s no way of knowing where that’s going. And not everything you think is being recycled actually is,” says Dr Heinrich Oosthuizen, a lecturer in cost and management accounting at the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics.
In the coming months, Dr Oosthuizen will publish the first paper, in a series of papers in the esteemed British journal Public Money and Management outlining the reasons behind poor waste management accounting in Australia.
“I think the results are shocking, to be honest,” he says. “This is on nobody’s agenda. It’s on nobody’s radar.”
Working for many years in accounting firms and public sector governance in South Africa, Dr Oosthuizen first became interested in waste management accounting when he was involved in an audit of a South African regional council that had more inhabitants than the entire state of Tasmania.
“We found that the regional landfill site was grossly underestimating the cost of rehabilitation,” he says. “But in Australia, what’s really scary is that we don’t even know where all the rural and discontinued landfill sites actually are.”
Dr Oosthuizen migrated to Australia in 2012, where he’s been investigating waste management accounting practices ever since.
He says one big problem in accounting for waste is that local councils – which own 87% of the landfill sites in Australia – often contract out their waste handling. And these companies are not always contractually obliged to provide full accounting information on their activities.
The result is that federal waste disposal policies, which comply with international regulations such as the 2004 Stockholm Convention, aren’t necessarily being adhered to by all parties involved.
“There’s a disconnect between the national policy, accountability, and accounting at a local level,” Dr Oosthuizen explains.
He says, Tasmania can definitely improve the accounting for waste at local government level’.
“With Tasmania’s green image, you’d expect us to do the right thing. But a lot of recyclables are being exported to the mainland and then exported elsewhere, and once it’s left here, who knows where it goes.”
The fact that the states and territories in Australia all have different laws also complicates matters.
“There are no boundaries when it comes to waste. If you throw something away, it could go anywhere. How do you track it?” says Dr Oosthuizen.
“Many people don’t really care where their rubbish goes. One of the problems with waste disposal is that it doesn’t really affect you directly.”
“A landfill site might affect groundwater somewhere away from where you live, or the methane generated might be contributing to greenhouse gases. But in Australia, there’s a lack of political will and a lack of public interest in these concerns.”
Dr Oosthuizen says further research could reveal possible solutions, such as a new funding model for weighbridges to document how much waste is being moved, or integrated IT solutions to keep track of it, but all of these will require significant investment in infrastructure.
“For now, we really need to know what’s happening,” he says. “We need to strengthen regional accounting systems. You can’t propose solutions if you don’t have a firm grasp on what the problems are.”
Research that makes a difference
I have lectured extensively in the accounting discipline at various universities. I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1991 and a Professional Valuer in 2005. The topic of my PhD is 'Accountability of Australian Local Government Authorities for National Waste Data from Outsourced Services' .
|Degree||Title of Thesis||University||Country||Awarded|
|PhD||Accountability of Australian Local Government Authorities for National Waste Data from Outsourced Services||University of Tasmania||Australia||2016|
|Grad Cert||Research||University of Tasmania||Australia||2016|
|Dip Real Estate||Property Valuation||University of South Africa||South Africa||2009|
|M COM||Taxation Major||University of Pretoria||South Africa||1990|
|B.Com||Accounting Honours||University of Pretoria||South Africa||1987|
|B.Com||Accounting major||University of Pretoria||South Africa||1986|
- SOUTH AFRICAN INSTITUTE OF CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS (1991- DATE)
- RSA INDEPENDENT REGULATORY BODY FOR AUDITORS (1996 – 2007)
- SOUTH AFRICAN COUNCIL FOR PROPERTY VALUERS (2005 - DATE)
Accounting Information Systems, Auditing and Management Accounting
20 years in higher education
Current unit coordinator AIS and ManAcc
Active researcher in public sector performance reporting and accountability
Fields of Research
- Accounting, auditing and accountability (350199)
- Organisation and management theory (350709)
- Environment policy (440704)
- Other environmental management (189999)
- Environmental policy, legislation and standards (190299)
- Waste management services (110501)
Journal Article(5 outputs)
|2021||Beatson N, De Lange P, Oosthuizen H, 'A question of balance: study-work-life, perspectives from accounting students', Pacific Accounting Review ISSN 0114-0582 (2021) [Refereed Article]|
Co-authors: De Lange P
|2020||Oosthuizen H, De Lange P, Wilmshurst T, Beatson N, 'Leadership-in-teams, ready, willing and able: Perspectives of international accounting students students', Meditari Accountancy Research, 29, (1) pp. 161-182. ISSN 2049-372X (2020) [Refereed Article]|
Co-authors: De Lange P; Wilmshurst T
|2020||Oosthuizen H, De Lange P, Wilmshurst T, Beatson N, 'Teamwork in the accounting curriculum: stakeholder expectations, accounting students' value proposition, and instructors' guidance', Accounting Education pp. 1-28. ISSN 0963-9284 (2020) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 8Web of Science - 5
Co-authors: De Lange P; Wilmshurst T
|2019||Oosthuizen H, Willett R, Wilmshurst T, Williams B, 'The constraining effect of incomplete contracts on the public reporting of waste management data', Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, 26, (4) pp. 370-385. ISSN 1448-6563 (2019) [Refereed Article]|
Citations: Scopus - 1Web of Science - 1
Co-authors: Wilmshurst T; Williams B
|2018||Oosthuizen H, Willett R, Wilmshurst T, Williams B, 'Accounting for national waste data: a Southern Tasmania outsourcing perspective', Public Money and Management, 38, (5) pp. 393-402. ISSN 0954-0962 (2018) [Refereed Article]|
Co-authors: Willett R; Wilmshurst T; Williams B
|PhD||Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Disclosure and CSR Assurance: An experimental study of the motivations for CSR disclosure and CSR assurance, in Kuwait|
Candidate: Mohammad A H F Alfaraj