Responsible Sourcing — Part 2

Following up on part 1, Responsible Sourcing is a natural conclusion to the present converter theft issues. Starting from a place that for the time being there are no national guidelines on how best to deter and prevent converter theft it is up to us as recyclers to be the front line of ensuring that crime doesn’t pay, to that end we need to look at what tools and practices are available to recyclers to prevent stolen converters coming into our facilities.

The idea of responsible sourcing has been more and more present typically in the procurement of raw materials and how goods are manufactured. It stands to reason that the recycling industry can also put into practice this idea for the wellbeing and good reputation of our industry. To that end there are some common-sense solutions and a few that require a little more time to implement but in the long run are worth the effort to ensure positive business practices.

Some of the big and obvious red flags are people that come in with what appears to be obviously newer converters with no proof of vehicle ownership or an invoice from a licensed mechanic stating the converter was replaced on their vehicle. It is fair to say, there are honest law-abiding citizens that do have this sort of information and should not be penalized for the miss deeds of others. The next set of red flags should come from potential sellers that have no history or connections to dismantling cars. Meaning they only have converters to sell and no other cores or car bodies. 

This last group of people may also have unrealistic expectations for the value of these scrapped units or only be showing up with mostly the same types of converters that typically bring more recycled value than average. The same could be said if your seller is overly willing to take any offer made with no questions asked. In either case these types of sketchy sellers will stand out like a sore thumb. Most of all they will insist on cash transactions and have no willingness to offer up identification or any valid proof of where the converters came from.

So, what is available to recyclers that can spot the red flags and just want to do legitimate business? For the most part state and county regulators want records kept of the transactions. I know it sounds a little condescending to say things like, “Make sure there is a copy of the sellers photo ID and a copy of the VIN number of the vehicle that the units came from.” It does however need to be said, because there are still some jurisdictions that don’t require this type of due diligence. If it is done on a voluntary basis by the recycling industry, it will go a long way to turning thieves away. If they don’t have an outlet for the material, it will dramatically reduce this particular crime.

Further records can be kept by taking a photo of the converter and combining that with the other records kept for the transaction. Authorities realize that retrieving the stolen converter is not possible as it goes through the recycling process. What they do want is to be able to identify the unit and tie it directly to a person that may have obtained and sold it illegally. This way we can continue with what is by in large legitimate business and properly prosecute criminals that manage to slip through otherwise diligent cracks.

Ultimately, we all know our customers and would like to think the best of them. There is always an outside chance the odd one is not all we thought. So, implementing tracing of sales to specific units is possible in an efficient way that will satisfy the authorities. Working with a knowledgeable partner when it comes to converters can also greatly reduce the risk of buying from the wrong people as we in the converter business are even more sensitive to the red flags.

From the perspective of a catalytic converter processor that deals in large volumes of material it is equally important to us that stolen material is not being processed in our facilities. To that end we carefully vet our clients, making sure they have registered businesses and have all the necessary recycling licenses and permits required by state and local laws. If we can’t confirm who we buy from they are not our customers – there are no cash transactions.

If you have a converter purchasing and acquisition program at your recycling facility, we strongly encourage you to implement some or all of these suggestions to prevent and reduce converter thefts in your region.