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US – Recyclers’ working group aims to combat CAT theft

Increasing precious metals prices sees benefits for recyclers of palladium, rhodium, and other precious metals but the downside to the increasing value of these metals is the issue of catalytic converter (CAT) theft.

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In a recent article, in ISRI’s Scrap News, Brady Mills, ISRI’s director of law enforcement outreach said that ‘because the converters rarely have markings on them, they can be very difficult for recyclers to track and identify.’

To help combat the issue, in October 2020, ISRI’s Materials Theft Subcommittee formed a Catalytic Converter Working Group with Steve Levetan, executive vice president of Pull-A-Part, taking the lead.

The aim of the group is to aid recyclers in identifying and avoiding purchasing stolen CATS by making their sale more traceable and more identifiable.

Mills said that a solution is to encourage car or fleet owners to mark their catalytic converters. Some police departments in the US are starting to host “etch and catch” events, where car owners and local businesses can bring their vehicles to have the converter’s heat shield engraved with license plate numbers or other identifiers (a program which has already proved successful in some states. The etchings can help tip off recyclers that a particular catalytic converter may be stolen and can help law enforcement identify the victim of the theft.

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With the rise in thefts, some companies are pursuing this tactic on their own. Frontier Communications, an internet service provider with customers across the country, recently began marking their catalytic converters with heat-resistant paint—which may deter thieves—and identifiable etches, a security employee of the company told Mills.

For recyclers who work with catalytic converters, Mills says, ‘the best course of action is to make sure they’re following their local and state laws regarding their handling of the material. Laws may dictate that buyers of catalytic converters obtain a copy of the seller’s government-issued identification, pay by check only, or take a photograph of the seller, for example. Recyclers can also choose to follow a similar protocol even without such a catalytic converter law in place, further reducing the likelihood of buying stolen goods.’

In 2008, ISRI launched to help recyclers identify and avoid purchasing stolen material in their area, and since the beginning of the year, more than two dozen alerts related to CAT thefts across the US have been posted by users.

On the 14th of February, Brady Mills posted an update on the homepage:

“As catalytic converter theft continues to surge, it is imperative that scrap recyclers have as much information as possible to identify stolen catalytic converters. Simply reporting one or two were stolen does not provide the necessary information. As more and more vehicle owners have been encouraged to mark catalytic converters by etching and/or heat resistant paint, please provide this information if available. If possible, indicate how the catalytic converter was removed, e.g. cut with a sawzall or shear. Also, a photo of a catalytic converter from the same make, model, and year vehicle may prove to be helpful.”

ISRI2021, ISRI’s virtual convention, will feature a session focused on catalytic converter theft on Thursday, April 22, from 2:45-3:30 p.m. EST. Click here to register for ISRI2021.

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