In the automotive recycling world there is endless data produced and studied by companies large and small. Being able to make sense of that data has been the preoccupation of business owners, managers and the people behind the creation of data for many years. With respect to recycled auto catalyst data, the focus has primarily been on the average value per unit. For those who are serious about data tracking and catalytic converter profits however, it's time to rethink what is possible to accomplish with data.
To look at how to begin with a new approach it is best to consider those that are the most successful in getting more from converter recycling. The best cases are the recyclers that have been able to perform separate assays of the various types of auto catalyst and have a long history of toll refining.
Five types of auto catalyst
There are five types of auto catalyst that should each be looked at differently.
1.) OEM Ceramic Converters
Original Equipment Manufacturer or the converter that was put on the vehicle from the factory. The base material of these converters is cordierite ceramic that has been wash-coated with precious group metals (PGM: platinum, palladium and rhodium.) These converters make up roughly 95 percent of all auto catalysts and have the highest precious metal loadings.
2.) OEM Metallic Converters
These converters are also original equipment from the manufacturer but have a different internal composition. The guts are made up of 409 stainless steel, also wash-coated with precious metals. They represent the other five percent (approximately) of converters in the marketplace and must be processed differently for recycling than ceramic cordierite units, but have similar precious metal loadings.
3.) DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter)
Currently, this material can be split into two categories. High-Grade that is worth the effort to recover the PGMs, and Low-Grade that costs more to recover the PGMs than the returns are worth. Also noteworthy is that many smelting facilities are having difficulty processing this material as the high silicone carbide content is causing issues with arc furnaces, resulting in extra fees for recycling.
These converters are replacements for when the OEM Converter fails. The PGM loadings of aftermarkets are 90 percent less than OEM materials, but while the loadings of precious metals are one tenth of the OEM, they are made from the same cordierite ceramic base.
These converters were the first on the market and were most commonly found on light-duty trucks. While there not that many left to recycle, they are typically processed separately as the loadings of precious metals are closer to aftermarket levels, offering an accurate assay value.
Until very recently it has been difficult for most auto catalyst recyclers to have enough volume of material to run each of these materials in separate assays. This is due to the fact that most refiners are set up to process 2,000-8,000 pound lot sizes. This has forced most auto catalyst recyclers to mix the various types of catalyst. While this has been an acceptable means of operation for payment, it is not the best way to track data or provide precise compensation for each of the converter types.