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Spark Plug Recycling: Problem Solved

Previously, precious metals like iridium and platinum were lost during the recycling of spark plugs. However, PGM Recovery Systems (now noble6) has patented a high-speed robotic process that can recover these critical elements. This means that there is now an opportunity to be remunerated for collecting spark plugs in bulk. Edmund Schwenk, CEO of noble6, is addressing this long-standing dilemma of spark plug waste. He believes that this new technology has the potential to revolutionize the recycling industry and help to conserve these precious metals.


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Why have spark plugs not been recycled?

For years used spark plugs have been sent in with steel scrap for recycling or simply tossed in the trash. Prices paid have always been dependent upon scrap steel pricing. Any precious metal content has been lost to the steel-making process.

Why has the Iridium – Platinum not been recovered?

Early attempts have been too labor-intensive for economic recovery. Recently mechanical processes have been applied, such as shredding but with no success at separation of the valuable metals.

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Edmund Schwenk

Earlier this year, PGM Recovery Systems was awarded a U.S. Patent for high-speed automated robotic processing of spent spark plugs to recover their precious metal bearing electrodes. Three years of engineering development have brought about this milestone in the industry. Now you can get paid for your bulk quantities of used spark plugs at prices that are worthy of promoting this enterprise.

Why do we need to recycle Iridium?  Why now more than ever?

Iridium is one of the scarcest elements on the earth, with a low occurrence of only 0.000003 parts per million in the earth’s crust. It is a very hard, brittle, and dense metal that belongs to the platinum group.  Its mechanical properties are perfect to survive the environment in today’s high-temperature gasoline burning engines.  These higher temperatures and pressures are required to achieve lower emissions standards at the tailpipe.

The crucial role of Iridium now, in particular, is to supply enough to support the scale-up of proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolysers to produce green hydrogen. This will put the world on a path toward a lower greenhouse gas emissions footprint.

The demand for Iridium is high. It is estimated that between 7.5-8.3 metric tons are mined annually. The manufacture of spark plugs consumes 1.5 metric tons each year and has not been recycled at “end of life”. By 2030 demand for Iridium for the manufacture of PEMs is projected to require 12 metric tons. If we as an industry collect and recycle this material, we will make a great contribution to the current deficit.

What do I need to do?  How does my company benefit from recycling these spark plugs?

In the past, you have received very little remuneration for this scrap item. Now that has changed, and you can get paid appropriately. All that is needed is to collect bulk. We are now accepting bulk lots of Iridium – Platinum spark plugs, LTL or TL shipments. No copper or partial-broken plugs are accepted (whole plugs only), and no trash or deductions will apply. We are harvesting the electrodes (center and side) for their precious metal value. Electrodes need to be intact.

About Edmund Schwenk – Metallurgist/CEO, noble6

For over 40 years, Edmund has been engaged in the processing, refining and manufacturing of precious metals. Early in his career, he received training in a laboratory setting as an assayer of ore and dore’ bars produced from mines and manufacturing jewelers. This, coupled within plant manufacturing process experiences, led to advancement as Senior Vice President in charge of precious metals refinery operations with Pure Metals Corporation. Activities included fabricating high-purity precious metals products (gold, silver palladium, iridium) and sputtering targets for multiple defense contractors (Brunswick Defense, Northrup Grumen, Martin Marrieta, Sandia National Laboratories New Mexico). Ed’s unique experience in precious metals processing technologies has benefitted PGM Recovery Systems, Inc./noble6 through the development of two disruptor technologies for use in the auto catalyst recycling sector.

On October 19, 2019, he was awarded a U.S. Patent for the recycling of PGMs bound to metallic substrates. This technology is now used in noble6’s operations for recovering precious metals that would otherwise have been discarded. Recently, and after three years of development, he was also responsible for guiding the company to successfully design, build and operate a high-speed robotic process line for the recovery of precious metals from automotive spark plugs. On January 10, 2023, he was awarded a U.S. Patent for the process. Ed continues to play an active role in the precious metals industry by providing information and transparency through his company, noble6, and their podcast.

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