Burning fuel can produce several toxic gases. A catalytic converter is a device that takes those toxic gases and converts them into less toxic gases.
For example, it converts Carbon monoxide into Carbon Dioxide, and Nitric Acid into Nitrogen and Oxygen (and a few other reactions).
In order to do this, it needs some precious metals which act as catalysts for the reactions. These metals don’t get consumed, but their presence helps to trigger these reactions. A catalytic converter will contain Rhodium, Platinum, and Palladium.
Those elements are also used quite commonly in computer chips and other modern technology, and mining them is becoming increasingly difficult/expensive. Thus, the market price for these precious metals is steadily rising and rising more and more.
Because they are on the exhaust system, located outside the body of the car, they are easy to steal. 90 seconds underneath your car with a sawzall and that sucker is on his way to the scrap yard for $75-200 a piece.
And there are a lot of cars readily available parked unattended literally anywhere you go any time of day. Makes for easy marks and easy getaways.
Honda Elements are getting hit especially hard…they’re older so they have good valued cats, they sit just enough off the ground that they can get under them with ease, and Hondas can use a wide array of cheap, aftermarket parts – so replacing it is fairly inexpensive by comparison to most domestic cars.
What does the scrapyard say about the meth addict coming in with a seemingly new/sawed off catalytic converter multiple times a week? Seems like the scraps yards are creating the market for these folks.
We hate those kinds of customers. They make my regular customers uncomfortable, makes my employees uncomfortable, and it only ends up in involvement with police and investigations.
1000% of the time the police instruct us to make the purchase, take plenty of pictures (as we’re required to do by state law, anyways), and then report our transactions at the end of the day (also a state requirement).
All of these pictures as well as the transaction details, fingerprint, picture of the customer at checkout, as well as their ID gets sent directly to the local police department at the end of every day. They’re supposed to cross reference these reports whenever a theft is reported, but typically they just come stop in and ask us if we’ve seen the item(s) or the suspect(s) come through.
I know the public perception is we’re facilitating these things and we’re sketchy guys buying stolen goods knowingly to make money, but it’s really not like that.
People don’t realize just how instrumental scrap recycling is to the supply chain. Sure, there’s a seedy element that’s involved on the customer side of things but that’s really a very minimal portion of things I see day-to-day, and they’re definitely not just ignored.
So many vehicles are legitimately taken off the road for dismantling and recycling, the market to recycle every single portion of that car worth anything is always going to exist. And this market in particular is only going to continue to grow with all of the precious metals used in the EV cars.