In the wake of recent court cases ongoing in the USA regarding fraudulent behavior by a major recycling organization, it is more important than ever that scrap catalysts sellers know who they are working with. Assaying - the process of sampling a small proportion of a catalytic batch - has long been regarded as the most efficient and reliable method of determining the quantity and value of precious metals in the batch; it, nevertheless, assumes transparency and honesty on the part of the recycler which some may now be questioning in the light of the unsavory actions by this particular recycler.

To ensure you get the most for your converters with a process in which you have confidence, we outline here several criteria that can be used in judging the performance and transparency of your recycling partner.

Comparative Count

Your recycler should provide a complete physical count to include a breakdown by whole units, halves, aftermarket converters, wire/metallic/foil converters, diesel units, diesel particulate filters (DPFs), and empty units. This should then be compared with your own count before shipment, and you must know exactly your count, both as a total and with a breakdown, before you ship. You should even send in your “empties” as they may still contain a little catalyst within, and a good processor will cut those and add that material. You should, as well, agree with your recycling partner on how the different materials are run together or separately. For example, metal units that have been trimmed will contain a different percentage of Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) than if untrimmed.

Audit your program

Learn key metrics, and track true sales - data doesn’t lie if you know where it came from and how to interpret it. Learn, too, to avoid misleading data, like the average converter price. To know exactly how much money you are making every time you sell, you should know the true price per unit, the price per pound, and the average weight per unit. For these to be accurate, you must know your count and weights and hold your recycling partner accountable for any discrepancies.

A Complete Weight Report

A professional recycler will always include a weight report in the final analysis, and this should, in broad terms, tally with your own data. Some weight loss is inevitable in the recycling process, but if this exceeds 4% it should be questioned. If you are not provided with a weight loss figure during the processing operation ask for an accounting review. A 1% loss of weight could equate to a 10% or more loss of value.

A Weight Breakdown

After the milling of the scrap catalyst and the dust (and don’t forget that the dust from de-canning and milling contains the highest fraction of precious metals) and the preparation of the sample, your recycler should then provide you with its weight, again within a small tolerance. This weight makes up the gross wet weight of your load; subtract from this any leftover scrap and a tiny amount of evaporation during the milling process, to give you your load’s net wet weight. The sample assay will then determine the moisture percentage which, when subtracted from the net wet weight, provides the settlement weight. Your partner should be able to provide the data for each stage of this operation.

A Verified Sample and Analysis

A properly collected sample is critical to you receiving the correct reimbursement, and therefore you should know that your recycler is performing this procedure correctly and honestly. It is important that the entire batch of de-canned catalyst and dust free-flows into the sampling system so that each particle has an equal chance of being sampled. The final laboratory ground powder used for analysis is approximately 1% of the total milled material and should be separated into 4 samples - one each for internal testing by your recycler; for independent external analysis; for yourself (in case you wish to carry out further tests); for the company’s records, in the event of discrepancies. This assay will determine your final payment, and therefore its accuracy and transparency are critical. You should know and understand whether you will be relying on the recycler’s own analysis or that of an independent laboratory, and it is important that your recycler is happy to share the official assay results with you for the basis of your payment.

The Assay Report.

The assay report should feature several components:

The weight reconciliation should show 3 weights

  • Gross (after de-canning)
  • Net Wet (after milling with any inert materials and trash removed)
  • Net Dry (after the moisture has been determined and the weight of the sample is subtracted).

Test results are the outcome of the assay, shown in parts per million (PPM). Multiplying this by the net dry weight should show the total contained PGM ounces (100%). Note that in practice, it is impossible to achieve 100% extraction and typically the returnable ounces are normally in the high nineties for Platinum and Palladium and the high eighties / low nineties for Rhodium as it is harder to extract.

Refining Date - the date that the metal leaves the refining center, normally around 3 months after its arrival. The beauty of the assaying process is that you will have been paid early based on the sampling results. By accepting this though, you will find that your final settlement account will include some financial charges arising from the early payment.

A Fair Settlement

There are two main sets of contracts that are used in the catalytic converter refining industry:

 1. Expanded: these terms and conditions will include all the costs associated with processing, treatment, refining, and financing charges and may offer price market discounts depending on when you sell your metal.

2. Condensed: you are paid a percentage of the number of ounces contained in the assay with all the expanded charges included in the percentage retained by the recycler, with the remainder of the “profit” paid to you. In this contract agreement you must be able to verify the figures for PGM content in the assay sample and also determine that the percentage retained is fair and reasonable.

The final invoice

Items on the final invoice should include the returnable ounces of each metal due to you; the price for each metal; the date the metals were sold. From this information, the total metal value is created.

You will receive the total metal value, less the customary recycling costs, that include all the refining processes used and their associated costs to convert scrap catalytic converters into the precious metal - de-canning, milling, weighing, sampling, assaying, smelting, refining, and interest charges. This recycling cost should, roughly, equate to 10-12% for a ceramic and 12-15% for a metallic foil converter.


Understanding and taking on board these criteria will help you choose the right company to recycle your scrap catalytic converters. A solid, dependable, and trustworthy partner will proactively help you understand all the issues we have outlined in this article, as his business should be based on building a long-term relationship with you. He should, as a matter of course, verify your count, verify your weights and balance them, verify that the sample and assay are accurate, and charge you a fair and reasonable amount to recycle your converters. At the same time, understanding the process, and the associated numbers, will reaffirm your confidence in your partner, and make you less liable to lose profit as a result of unethical trade practices.