Although the precious metals in automotive catalysts are not consumed but only serve as catalysts for certain chemical reactions, the catalytic converter does not have eternal life.
More in particular, the converter may need replacement during the lifetime of the car due to engine or mechanical damage.
Also, at the end of a car's lifespan, the catalytic converter should be removed from the car prior to the shredding of the end-of-life vehicle, so the part can be recycled for its economical value.
The European ELV-legislation contributes to maximize dismantling and recovery for the sake of the environment and sustainable development. Indeed, the catalytic converter is listed in Annex I as one of the various components that are marked for removal prior to shredding.
The lifetime and end-of-life segments are two of several segments usually considered when reviewing the potential recovery of precious metals from this industry application. These segments represent an aboveground mine, significantly contributing to the global precious metal needs. Umicore is able to serve all of these market segments.
The recovery of platinum group metals from spent automotive catalysts helps satisfying a portion of the gross demand of these metals for this application.
In 2003, it was Umicore's estimate that this recovery accounted for the yearly equivalent of 20% of Pt, 11% of Pd and 18% of Rh yearly gross needs for this application. These numbers will continue to grow as more spent autocatalyst material is collected.
Umicore has extensively investigated the autocatalyst lifecycle and participated in several research projects.