Converter Recycling: Is Selling on Auction, App, or Assay Like Playing the Slots?

Shell Games and Other Shenanigans
Cat recycling circa 1990s: Small. Medium. Large. $5. $10. $15.

Have you been in the business long enough to remember it? When all you cared about was the price of a large GM? Eventually you learned the game. That the large GM and the exotic converter were the lost leaders. If you got the prices you wanted for those two units, the rest of the lot was a fire sale. Selling like this has gone on for years. It is evolutionary. You have come a long way, baby.

No more easy access to the cats.

You count or inventory them.

You may have a dedicated point person handling them.

You follow the markets.

You sell on assay, auction, or an app.

So why do you still wonder if you are selling them right and getting all the money you can? Let’s look at the converter recycling landscape today and discuss what may or may not have changed.

Auction: Physical Bidding
We know you are rock stars. This ain’t your granddaddy’s junkyard no mo’. Your converter recycling program is not the only thing that has evolved. Your facility or facilities are neat and well managed. Your yard management system is sophisticated. The key metrics of your business are on point. When it comes to selling your scrap catalytic converters, you bring two or three companies in, have them count, grade, and bid on them. Highest bid wins. You compare averages with other recyclers in your owners’ group and feel good about your converter sales.

App: Electronic Bidding or Selling by Number
Now some of you really love taking pics to inventory your converters and sell them via an electronic auction. And others of you are looking up numbers on converter apps like it’s going out of style. You can get a real rush from electronic sales. It might even feel like you’re seeing all 7’s or 3 cherries come up on the slots. Comparing averages with similar yards also feels like a win.

Assay: The Scientific Method
In 2012, we at United Catalyst Corporation brought small lot assaying of scrap catalytic converters to individual recyclers. Other companies followed suit. Today many of you have tried or are now selling on assay or the scientific method. Your testimonies of increased value to your peers and to us resound loud and clear.

But what if none of these processes produces top dollar, how would you know?

Selling by the piece. Subjective.

Selling by physical or electronic bid. Not verifiable. Lost leaders.

Selling by serial number or app. Not transparent. Lost leaders.

Selling on assay. Could be manipulated.

Mass Balanced and Verified Assay The Way to Go
Selling on assay with refining terms is the best way to recycle scrap catalytic converters. In fact, it is the only way to recycle a converter. It happens once it leaves your facility whether you sell it this way or not. The trick to selling on assay is fourfold: Knowing the actual count including halves so that you can know your true average. Mass balancing all weights including shipping materials, scrap, catalyst, and dust. Scientifically accurate sampling collection to produce the sample of record from the refiner or a third-party lab. Verified assay results from the end refiner or third-party lab. Make sure you get paid on the “official assay of record” and make sure the assay results can be verified by a third party. Without one of these four aspects being true and accurate, you are sure to be leaving money on the table even when selling on assay, never mind when selling by the piece or on auction or with an app.

Not all collectors, processors, smelters, or refiners are the same. Not all operate on the same principles.

Learning the way assay and refining works and how to avoid unethical trading practices takes time, but if done properly with a reliable recycling partner, yields much greater value. Get the most from your converters with a process you can trust.

If you have questions about this article or any issue pertaining to catalytic converter recycling, we, at United Catalyst, are here to help you. Recycling converters on assay is a journey. We hope you will rely on us at United Catalyst to be your guide.

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Becky Berube serves the recycling community as President of United Catalyst Corporation, Co-Chair of the Automotive Recycling Association’s Events Advisory Committee, and is an ExCom Board Member of the International Precious Metals Institute. She can be reached at 864-834-2003 or by email at