How Scrap Catalytic Converters Are Valued 👍
5 Jan 20210 comments
We all know that catalytic converters have good scrap value, primarily due to their platinum, palladium, and rhodium content, but also because of the complexity in the recycling process. The spent catalyst must go through de-canning, grinding, smelting, and a multi-stage chemical separation before the 3 precious metals can be extracted in a pure form, a process necessarily carried out by specialists who have the appropriate recycling and safety equipment.
There are 3 factors that determine the true value of the PGMs in any one catalytic converter:
- the percentage of precious metals built into a catalyst is determined by the type of combustion engine and auto model that it will be attached to. And, now, there are literally thousands of types in existence as every vehicle manufacturer launches new models every year that will require different catalysts. As well, governments around the world have increasingly been introducing new legislation in order to control emissions, but not on a consistent basis - thus one particular car model may well require a different catalyst depending on the region in which it is sold
- the costs associated with the extraction of the precious metals, with both the recycler and the refining company making charges for their stages of the extraction process
- the value of the precious metals at any one particular point in time, which can vary significantly due to the fluctuations in the commodities markets.
There are also potential losses that can impact the actual quantities recovered:
- depending on the age of the catalyst and vehicle usage, physical disintegration can occur during the life of the catalytic converter
- during dismantling, storage, and the transportation stages prior to processing, sometimes the “honeycomb” may become damaged or broken which can result in some losses
- the crushing and sampling stage, if not carried out properly, can also result in losses
In the early days of the recycling market, selling scrap catalytic converters always had an element of risk attached to it, and it was very much a “take it or leave it” buyers market, with little consideration given to the varying amounts of PGMs in each catalyst. It is fair to say, many small operators such as salvage yard owners, junkyard owners, tow truck companies, and diesel repair shops were often the unwitting losers to unscrupulous dealers.
A breakthrough in technology, though, has helped to bring a more level playing field in the industry. Assaying - the process of analyzing a substance to accurately determine the exact PGM content by a full analysis of the crushed monolith material prior to processing - has gone a long way to eliminating this risk by providing a scientific analysis that can be considered the basis for the value of the goods.
Now, then, sellers can have a great deal more confidence in determining the true value of their scrap catalytic converters. The better-equipped processing operations can provide in-house or external laboratory analysis. Alternatively, handheld X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers provide accurate and precise measurements, almost to laboratory standard. These are important factors that sellers need to consider when choosing a partner to work with, in particular one who provides accurate and transparent assay reports that are critical to maximizing profitability.
Some of the more reputable companies have taken things a stage further by providing, via online catalogs, real-time prices for thousands of different models of catalysts that allow sellers to compare prices. Sellers are able to determine exactly, on any given day, the value of their goods, are able to compare prices between recyclers, and can also make informed decisions on whether to sell now or hold back until prices potentially rise.
Thus, it is important to choose your buyer carefully. Ideally, find someone you can build a rapport with - personal connections still count for a lot in business, and help to develop the strong, fruitful, and lucrative business relationship that will guarantee the best returns.