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An ASEAN Perspective on the Catalytic Converter Recycling Market

Maxime Le Breton, Managing Director of Ecotrade Group, a global leader in catalytic converter (CAT) recycling, tells Auto Recycling World about how the CAT recycling market is viewed in ASEAN countries and whether they are on track with the rest of the world with the European system for vehicle emission standards.


An ASEAN Perspective on the Catalytic Converter Recycling Market p one
Maxime Le Breton

Prior to the impact of COVID-19, most ASEAN countries saw burgeoning economic growth and associated difficulties, including a significant increase in pollution from vehicle emissions. If ASEAN countries do not wish to fall short of their climate pledge policies, tackling transport emissions will be critical. At present, there is little doubt that all member countries “could do better” in moving towards international standards. 

In Europe, for example, there is just one regulation for the whole of the European community; there is recycling legislation that requires auto scrap yards to recycle a minimum of 95% of the car; there are road safety regulations that oblige owners of vehicles to maintain them to a minimum level of roadworthiness. ASEAN, as a community, has none of these in place, with each member country following its own policies.

Where do they stand now?

Europe is currently operating “Euro 6” standards, both for light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, with tighter legislation in the pipeline that is likely to see “Euro 7” introduced by 2025. Most ASEAN countries have embraced the European system for their vehicle emission standards; however, the levels of adoption varies from country to country (see the chart below). 

The European system for vehicle emission standards in ASEAN countries

An ASEAN Perspective on the Catalytic Converter Recycling Market tabThese figures indicate that, with the notable exception of Singapore, there is still some way to go to achieve Western standards. Without a doubt, if ASEAN wants to be seen to be as committed to battling pollution, the member countries would benefit from having common regulations and from creating a production and recycling sector with a single regulation.

Factors Influencing The Catalytic Converter Recycling Market in ASEAN

With ASEAN playing “catch-up” in terms of emission control legislation, the scrap catalyst market obviously has not reached the size or sophistication of that in the USA and Europe.  

Nevertheless, the sector is growing, influenced by several factors:

  • The countries of the region have been witnessing (pre-COVID-19 impact) significant growth in car ownership as wages have increased and infrastructures have improved
  • Industrial growth across the region has led to greater demand for transportation 
  • The price of platinum, palladium and rhodium – the three precious metals used in catalytic converters has soared in recent times, making the scrap catalysts increasingly valuable
  • Pollution in the major cities has become a serious problem, and it is being recognised that improving ambient air quality will translate into positive health impacts, with reduced pressure on under-resourced healthcare systems

Catalytic Converter Recycling Industry Status

As noted previously, the catalytic converter recycling industry is less well established in ASEAN than its American and European counterparts, but this is starting to change as the market opportunities are being recognised. In some ways, being later into the market can be advantageous, with companies able to enjoy the benefits of the learning curve experienced elsewhere whilst avoiding some of the pitfalls. As well, so far at least, the ASEAN region has avoided the illegal removal of functioning catalytic converters from road-worthy vehicles, a practice that has become relatively widespread in the USA and Europe as soaring prices of PGMs make the catalyst a valuable commodity.

Some leading, forward-looking companies in the region have established themselves as “one-stop shops”, taking advantage of the latest technologies to offer a full range of services, including analysis, cutting, and the refining of all models of catalytic converters and diesel particulate filters. A few are operating in a number of ASEAN countries, with offices in key locations, and have created comprehensive catalogues with real-time pricing and smartphone apps that allow easy and speedy identification of catalytic converters.

There is, therefore, reason for cautious optimism. ASEAN nations are, albeit slowly, recognising the need to change their stance on fighting pollution and encouraging “greener” policies. The catalytic converter recycling sector seems to be developing in a professional, efficient and transparent manner. And awareness of the benefits of recycling, and its necessity both to the automotive industry and to the environment, is becoming increasingly prevalent.  

If you would like to contact Maxime, please email him at

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