Converter Recycling: Are You in the Driver’s Seat of Your Converter Sales?

Are you in control of your converter sales? Or are you at the mercy of your buyer? How much insight do you have into the actual value of your scrap catalytic converters? Do you sell your units by-the-piece for a “fair market value” or are you selling on recovery by a process called assay? We hope you are selling on assay with a reputable processor.

Recycling converters on assay is a journey. We want to help you with that journey. There is power and profit in your converter education. With so many ways to sell converters, let us go over a few of the basic methods and then go a little deeper into understanding assay.

Selling by-the-piece: The most common way of selling scrap catalytic converters. Units are commonly sold to peddlers, collectors, core companies, and some processors for a “fair market value.” The problem with this method is the subjectivity of the prices. Price lists may be based more on the competitive landscape of one’s region than they are the intrinsic precious metals value. Converters that are purchased this way are often easily upgraded and downgraded to “make the sale.”

Selling by auction or collective bid: In recent years, many recyclers have found some peace of mind, and increased profits, in selling through an auction or bidding process. The theory is that the sale goes to the highest bidder and you receive the “best” price. The downside to this method is that the buyer will most likely turn those converters around and sell them on recovery or assay which means you most likely left money or margin on the table.

Selling on assay: In the past 10 -12 years, selling on recovery of the precious metals or assay has been the method that we have promoted. In the end, it is the only way to determine the true value of the scrap catalytic converters being sold. With assay-based selling, you commonly sell to a professional processor or smelter.

A processor is a company that de-cans, mills, samples, and assays or tests scrap catalytic converters and that can determine the precious metal value of the spent automotive catalyst. There are approximately two dozen professional processors in North America; less than 10 of those with sample prep, fire assay, and ICP laboratories. A smelter is a company that transforms the spent automotive catalyst into a collector metal by heating and melting. An end-refiner is a company that reduces the collector metal down to the pure form of Platinum, Palladium, and Rhodium by fire assay and chemical dissolution and analysis. There are less than a dozen smelters and refiners world-wide.

Are You in the Driver’s Seat of Your Converter Sales? Are you selling converters or precious metals? 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. Ask yourself: Who has my money? Am I getting the most from these converters with a process I trust and can verify?

Are you getting the most from your converters? To get the most from your converters there are a few things you need to verify:

  1. An actual converter count including halves so that you can know your true average.
  2. A reconciliation of the total weight of your load including shipping materials, scrap, catalyst, and dust to ensure no losses.
  3. A scientifically accurate sample from the end-refiner or an approved third-party lab as the basis for your payment.
  4. A verified assay result from the end-refiner or an approved third-party lab as the basis of your settlement.
  5. The highest metal prices for the sale of your metal.

Without one of these five 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.

If you have questions about this article or any issue pertaining to the recovery of precious metals and materials from automotive recycling, we, at United Catalyst, are here to help you. Recycling is a journey. We hope you will rely on us at United Catalyst to be your guide. Who are we? United Catalyst Corporation is a professional processor with a sample preparation lab. We process your converters; we test and witness your material throughout refining; we get you a verified assay result. We are a processor you can trust.

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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