Faces of EUMEPS: Alejandra Rodríguez Rincón, Responsible for Finance and Corporate Affairs at ANAPE (Spain)

Welcome to the latest edition of “Faces of EUMEPS,” a series dedicated to showcasing the passionate individuals behind the European Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) industry. Our journey through the diverse landscape of EPS professionals brings us to an insightful conversation with Alejandra, the Responsible for Finance and Corporate Affairs at ANAPE, the Spanish Association of Expanded Polystyrene. With a rich background in business and financial auditing, Alejandra has been a important figure in ANAPE since 2007, skilfully navigating the association through the realms of finance, corporate affairs, and communication.

In this edition, Alejandra shares her extensive experience, the evolution of the EPS industry in Spain, and the critical role ANAPE plays in advocating for EPS and promoting sustainability within the sector. From discussing the challenges of EPS waste and recycling to highlighting the significant changes and advancements in the industry, Alejandra offers a comprehensive view of the EPS landscape in Spain. 

 

 

Alejandra, could you share a bit about your background and what led you to your current role as Responsible for Finance and Corporate Affairs at ANAPE?

I have a degree in business with a specialisation in financial auditing. When I joined ANAPE in 2007, my work focused on the administration of the association and everything related to corporate issues, such as the organisation of assemblies and bookkeeping. Over time, and after further training, I have taken on responsibilities in other areas, such as coordination of communication and statistical reports.

 

In your role at ANAPE, what are your primary missions and objectives, and how do they align with the broader goals of the association?

As a cross-cutting job, I have several missions and objectives.

In the financial area, my main mission is to manage and control the budget so that ANAPE and its members can get the most out of the projects we work on.

On the corporate side, my job is internal and member-facing, with my main mission being the production of useful statistics for the sector, event organisation, and member services.

Regarding communication, the main task is to disseminate the qualities and properties of EPS to achieve a positive perception and make EPS the preferred material for both construction and packaging.

This aligns with ANAPE’s mission: Advocating for the sector most efficiently and improving the perception of EPS as a material and as an industry.

 

Part of your mission is to monitor EPS waste and recycling in the Spanish market. What sources do you manage? What are the main difficulties of this task?

For waste and recycling statistics, we use several sources, such as EcoEPS Centres (converters recovering material), recyclers with collaboration agreements, the Spanish Foreign Trade Institute (ICEX), and customs information.

The main difficulty we encounter in the reports is the accurate data collection. Firstly, it is very difficult to obtain data from non-member companies, and secondly, we have to ensure that the information is not duplicated. For this purpose, we check both the questionnaires and the customs forms to ensure that the information and the study are accurate.

We hope the Recotrace report system will succeed and be able to demonstrate EPS recycling figures, which will be the most reliable source for the authorities, avoiding guessing and calculations.

 

Having witnessed the evolution of the EPS industry, what are the most significant changes you’ve observed, particularly in the Spanish context?

From a business point of view, the EPS industry in Spain has changed a lot since it became part of ANAPE. After the economic crisis of 2008, many small companies disappeared, and others became part of larger companies or groups. Today, the industry is more professional and very committed to recycling and the environment, participating in national and international projects and initiatives, such as the EcoEPS centres or the OCS.

As for ANAPE, one of the most significant changes has been its financing. Currently, the association is supported by more than 90% of its income from the processing industry, whereas in 2007, it was the raw material companies that contributed the most to the association.

 

Could you elaborate on ANAPE’s role in the EPS industry and its impact on the Spanish market and beyond?

The main activity of ANAPE is the representation of the EPS sector before different interlocutors, as well as the development of different activities to promote the knowledge and use of Expanded Polystyrene products.

We work on the edition of technical documentation and brochures with information of interest for the sector, collaborate with fairs and congresses to make our material known, participate in the development of technical regulations on EPS being the interlocutor with administrations, and promote the environmental management of all the processes involved in the manufacture, use, waste management, and recycling of EPS.

All this means that companies are evolving quicker to respond to the need to improve energy efficiency and the safety of goods, by the high European legislative requirements.

 

ANAPE emphasises EPS’s role in a sustainable future. What are your activities supporting ANAPE members in their transition to a more sustainable industry?

Since 2000, ANAPE has been committed as a booster to sustainability for its members by creating the EcoEPS Centres, which are companies specialising in the recycling of expanded polystyrene that come from companies that transform the material and are responsible for the management, treatment, and recycling of waste. Today, this is still a key activity to demonstrate that EPS is recyclable.

Participating in the Life EPS-SURE project some years ago, we tried to go one step further in the recycling of EPS boxes into new food contact products.

Other activities, such as training courses about OCS (Operation Clean Sweep) and the translation into Spanish of the Good Practice Manufacturer Guide to implement this commitment, lead the members to be ahead of European legislation.

In the last two years, we have been assisting converters (with specialised consultants) to comply with the legislation on plastic tax and extended producer responsibility for packaging waste.

 

How does ANAPE engage with various stakeholders, including government bodies, industry partners, and the public, to promote the benefits of EPS?

ANAPE represents a small industry in Spain compared to others, so to reach the administration, it needs the support of other larger associations such as ANAIP – Plastics Industry Association, Andimat – Insulation Association, or the recently created SPR system “Envalora”.

To carry out communication campaigns promoting EPS and the industry, we work hard with our staff, also collaborating with these associations both for communication and to train members on more technical issues.

 

From your personal experience, what aspects of working with EPS and in the industry do you find most rewarding?

ANAPE has introduced me to the world of communication. I work every day creating content for social networks or specialised magazines and looking for information that could be interesting for the sector. It is very gratifying to show the public the advantages of EPS and to see how the public is interested in our material, its different recycling options, and its great versatility.

I love my job and my specialisation in finance. I had always worked with profit and loss accounts and balance sheets in private companies, but working in an association and EPS has given me the possibility to train and explore this other area I also love: communication.

I have found the perfect balance between “letters and numbers”.

 

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations for ANAPE and the wider EPS industry in Spain and Europe?

EPS as a material/product still has a long way ahead, with many possibilities in its life cycle, both in the improvement of manufacturing processes and in the use of recycled material from different sources.

If we work well, the industry can become one of the most sustainable, but to achieve that, we must continue to work daily, together with our companies.

We still have a mission for the future: to communicate better. In the plastics industry in general, in recent years, we have only been communicating reactively or defensively, but we are changing.

Nowadays, communication both in Spain and in Europe is more open. We have to work to ensure that both professionals and the general public have access to all the information and that it is truthful and backed up by technical studies. We must improve our public image.