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A catalytic converter is a small device found in your vehicle’s exhaust system. The job of this crucial component is to transform dangerous gasses your car produces into less harmful ones, helping to protect the air. Precious metals like platinum and palladium found in the catalytic converter play a major role in performing this vital process by converting carbon dioxide into carbon and water. There are also a wide range of other metals used in catalytic converters, such as copper, nickel, cerium, iron, and manganese.

Catalytic converters are pollution control devices coated with chemicals and a combination of the platinum group metals (PGM) platinum (Pt), rhodium (Rh) and/or palladium (Pd). The PGMs are responsible for the conversion reactions that turn pollutants into harmless gases

Most present-day vehicles that run on gasoline, including automobiles, trucks, buses, trains, motorcycles, and planes, have exhaust systems with a catalytic converter.

Catalytic converters are built to last. But like anything in your car, they can break down. If you’ve noticed your vehicle is backfiring, burning through more fuel than usual, or flashing the “check engine” signal, it could mean your catalytic converter is on the fritz. If you do have to get a new one, don’t toss it away.

Catalytic converter recycling will easily turn that busted piece of junk into some cold hard cash.

Because they play a pivotal role in the automotive industry as well as numerous other industries, the demand for PGMs is huge. More than 98% of new cars sold worldwide each year are now fitted with these devices, which accounted for 51% of total world demand for PGMs in 2010 according to the International Platinum Group Metals Association (IPA).

To recover the considerable value in spent catalytic converters, companies need to quickly and accurately determine the amounts of Pt, Pd, and Rh at the collector’s site or in the refineries.

The automotive catalyst material are made either of a ceramic substrate, mostly cordierite coated with a precious metal containing a wash coat, or of a metallic substrate with an aluminium oxide wash coat also containing precious metals.  

The average concentration and ratio of PGMs and the current market price of these three elements have fluctuated strongly over the last 20 years, depending on the supply, demand, and speculation. These variations, as well as the tightening of emission legislation, have had a direct correlation on the composition of the catalysts, which themselves have had a strong influence on demand.

Currently, the composition, which depends on the engine displacement and the type of fuel used, varies dramatically. The formulation can consist of only Pt, or various ratios of Pt-Pd-Rh, Pt-Rh, and Pd-Rh.

Pyrometallurgical processes are favoured for the recycling of PGM-bearing materials such as catalytic converters because of the high recovery rates. Recycling efforts must be combined with careful elemental analysis of the recovered metal to determine its exact chemical composition and to ensure the metal is free from contaminants or hazardous materials.

The trade of ground-up material sold as catalysts can be very dangerous because it may be contaminated with lead or spent nickel-cadmium batteries. Wavelength dispersive x-ray fluorescence (WDXRF) technology is well established for the analysis of the recovered metal because it offers high sensitivity down to low atomic number elements, high repeatability, and element selectivity. WDXRF is also favoured for its wide dynamic range and ability to achieve the performance levels needed for routine industrial applications.

Recycling Catalytic Converters

With millions of cars on the road at any given time, in several cities throughout the world, air pollution is obviously a major environmental issue. To help combat this, governmental organizations have enacted laws that have forced automobile manufacturers to take steps to reduce the emission caused by their product. What they came up with was an ingenious device called a “catalytic converter”.

A catalytic converter uses a catalyst consisting of Platinum, Palladium and Rhodium to help remove the Carbon Monoxide, Hydrocarbons and Nitrogen Oxides that pollute our atmosphere.

These metals have an extremely high market value which makes a lot of catalytic converters worth a fair bit of money in the scrap industry.


Catalytic converter recycling is a great reason to pad your wallet, but it’s not the only one. Like all recycling, it can also be an effective way to protect the environment.

Mining takes up a lot of resources that can put a huge strain on Mother Earth. It takes far more energy to extract metal than it does to recycle it.

Recycling catalytic converters is just plain smart. It will not only put extra money in your pocket, but also reduce the amount of mining in the future, and that will save valuable resources and minimize our carbon footprint.