UK Pavilion at LCV2016

Auto catalysts and their recycling value

People need to be more aware of the consequences of their actions, particularly on how these affect the environment. With the advancements in modern technology, people are able to experience more convenience in terms of how they go about their daily lives. Unfortunately, these conveniences have a great impact on the environment. It goes without saying that it is about time to take drastic measures to counter the negative effects of progress to Mother Nature.

Auto Catalyst

By definition, an auto catalyst is a cylindrical metal coated with a combination of platinum, rhodium and palladium chemicals. An auto catalyst is usually mounted in a stainless steel canister and the whole assembly is what is referred to as a catalytic converter.

Digging deeper, auto catalysts can be categorized into five different types, namely the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) ceramic converter, OEM metallic converter, diesel particulate filter (DPF), aftermarkets, and beads. OEM ceramic converters are made with a base material of cordierite ceramic and most cars are made with these types of converters. OEM metallic converters, on the other hand, have a base material made from stainless steel, which needs to undergo a different recycling process to extract the precious metals.

DPFs have two categories, namely a high grade type, which is worth recycling, and a low grade type that requires more effort to extract the precious metal because of its high silicon carbide content. Aftermarkets are auto catalysts that replace the OEM types. Aftermarkets are typically made from the same ceramic base. Beads are commonly found in light-duty trucks and studies show that there are only a few of these auto catalysts left to recycle.

Catalytic Converter

A catalytic converter is used in a vehicle exhaust line to convert the impurities and residues from the combustion of fuel into harmless gases. For instance, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide gases are converted into water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen gases through a catalytic converter.

A catalytic converter specifically for diesel engines includes an additional filter to eliminate soot, or the fine particles that cause several ailments and diseases such as lung cancer. The filter in the catalytic converter would trap these particulates. Platinum group metals, or PGMs are commonly utilized to coat these filters. These PGMs aid in burning off the particulates and regenerating the filter itself.

Platinum group metals, PGMs

PGMs are more active in converting carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons into more harmless gases. There are instances wherein palladium is even added to improve the thermal stability of the PGMs. PGMs make the conversion process in the catalytic converter possible. This allows most vehicles to pass emission testing and evaluations.

Catalytic Converter Recycling

While catalytic converters are highly durable and may even last for the entire lifetime of your vehicle, there are instances when these need to be replaced. Nonetheless, catalytic converters containing auto catalysts can be recycled so don’t dump them immediately. Since these contain a number of precious metals, it is best to leave them on your car and leave the recycling part to the experts. You can bring your car into a scrap metal dealer or a car scrap yard and for sure, they will be able to handle the recycling of the catalytic converter of your car.

Why choose to recycle?

Platinum is found in a catalytic converter’s PGM coating. Experts have the ability to extract platinum from the catalytic converter of your car. This will have a great impact on the environment because mining platinum, which is considered a precious metal, entails energy-intensive digging. This is because a ton of ore merely produces an ounce of platinum. In order to extract this single ounce of platinum from the ore, a significant amount of various chemicals are necessary. This process of extracting platinum alone is already causing major pollution. Thus, recycling platinum from your catalytic converter instead of digging it from under the earth’s surface will greatly help the planet.

Cost of Recycling Catalytic Converters

The cost of the catalytic converter in your car usually depends on the model of your car. You may be surprised to find that the scrap catalytic converter prices can even be as high as 500USD, coming from car manufacturers such as Volvo, Toyota, and Honda, among others. Nevertheless, you can check the price of your catalytic converter by manufacturer. The most popular catalytic converters are those from Toyota vehicles.

Even the entire process of recycling catalytic converters has leveraged on the advancements in modern technology. Nowadays, there are already mobile applications dedicated to showing consumers the prices of their catalytic converters. Although the prices and the value of the catalytic converters may not be entirely accurate using these mobile applications, these already provide a fair idea on how much your catalytic converter is worth. The true and final value of your converter will still be determined by an expert smelter.

Smelters usually have equipment that determines the PGM content of your catalytic converter. These machines have complex formulas that are used to analyze samples. Different formulas are used to categorize the auto catalysts, which will undergo a different recycling process based on their category. DPFs with high carbon content in particular are sometimes even rejected by smelting facilities. Nonetheless, it should always be noted that the recycling efforts should go hand-in-hand with a deliberate elemental analysis.

The demand for PGMs and catalytic converters is immense, particularly in the automotive industry. Hence, it follows that the business of recycling catalytic converters is also huge. There are several companies recovering PGMs from catalytic converters and this business alone was said to have an estimated value of 3 billion dollars way back in 2010.

Economic progress is definitely good, but of course not at the expense of the environment. The world has truly come a long way in terms of economic progress. Perhaps it is about time that efforts are focused on environmental preservation. Hence, drastic measures to help reverse the negative impact of economic progress in the environment is already needed. This is where recycling, including auto catalyst or catalytic converter recycling, becomes significant.