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Getting the most for your CATs - part 1

Green Car Demo Facility
The merchant/processor's role involves extracting the high value powders and putting together suitably specified parcels for the re-manufacturers.
We all handle big volumes of catalytic convertors these days and as ATFs and dismantlers, there are a number of routes we can go down to maximise the return on these high value items.


In this first part, we look at the most obvious choice which will suit the majority of UK auto recyclers - put them in a stillage and have them collected on a regular interval by one of the UK’s CAT processors. It’s easy and provided you’re dealing with a good merchant, you should get a good price for your products.

We recently visited JWB Recycling, one of these specialists to find out what happens to those CATS after they leave the yard. South Wales based, JWB collect from all over the country with three collection vehicles on the road at any one time. Currently employing eight staff, including founder and Managing Director, Jake Bremner, the company represents that link between the dismantler and the purification and ultimate remanufacturing of the CAT’s contents.

JWB started back in the early 1990s when CATs were just starting to appear on the market. Jake explained, “I had recently been made redundant from a company specialising in electronic scrap. At first we simply went out buying CATs and also electronic scrap (which still forms a significant part of the business today). We weren’t de-canning in those days but simply merchanting - buy in small quantities from many different sources and put them together into larger, sorted parcels which we would then sell on to the major CAT materials producers.”

The next stage for JWB was to move to their current premises between Cardiff and Swansea where, due to the volumes now being bought, they invested in the de-canning process. Jake took us through what happens to CATs when they arrive on site. First stage is sorting, Jake explained that two CATS can look identical from the outside but their value is far from identical. “The only visual difference may be one digit on the stamped reference number, but one may may have much higher levels of palladium, platinum or rhodium. One may be worth £70 whereas the other may worth £170”, Jake said.

Jake Bremnar - JWB
JWB's Jake Bremner - knowing your CATs is essential to survive in this competitive market place.
Don’t forget, the price of CATs will be changing continually as precious metals are priced on the commodities markets. Jake explained that naturally there is a lag from buying in and selling out and the price can vary greatly in that time. From his point of view, it tends to be ‘round-a-bouts and swings’, you may gain one week and lose a bit the next - that’s the nature of the business!

This demonstrates just how important it is in today’s market to know your CATs. As with all markets, it’s a competitive world out there and to stay ahead you really need to know what’s in each CAT. Jake showed us his data that has been collated over the years which indicates just how much material is in each CAT. He said, “Without this information, we would not be able to pay a fair price for each CAT, we would only be able to pay an average price which would have to err on the side of caution. Our customers would soon go elsewhere”. Jake pointed out that in the early days before this data was available, there was a fair degree of guess work going on.
So what happens to the CATS when they reach the site?
First off they are sorted into various categories so when processed, they can collect similar products in each container. Once sorted, they are literally chopped in half and the CAT contents emptied into a 45 gallon drum. Sounds simple, but as with most things it is a little more complicated than that. After all, we talking about some valuable materials here in a powdered form so suction and filtration systems are a must to make sure you collect every last gram of it.

After this comes a critical part of the operation; assaying each drum. “We need to know exactly what we have in each drum so we assay samples with our in-house analysis equipment. This gives us a reasonably accurate picture of what is in each drum but we don’t know exactly until we have samples returned from a specialist laboratory. It is their analysis which is then compared to the analysis of the manufacturer we sell our materials to. Usually there is very little discrepancy but it is essential that we know what we send off”, said Jake.

So that’s what happens to your CATs after they leave the yard. Non-ferrous merchants such as JWB have always served as the intermediary between the small to medium producer of scrap materials. They then process and put to together large enough lots in a suitable form to sell on to the manufacturers of the raw materials. CAT’s naturally fit into this process. JWB also buy other non-ferrous and precious metal/electronic scrap. If you would like to know more about the national services they offer you can call them on 01446 795500 or email them.

In part two next month, we shall look at the potential and pitfalls for the auto recycler to get involved with the de-canning process in-house.


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