When you recycle scrap metal, you sometimes run into some unsavory characters. We go to great lengths to avoid accepting stolen metal, but that doesn’t mean people don’t try. Folks who work in construction and contracting know the frustration of walking up to a job site in the morning to find that someone has ripped out all of their plumbing or careful electrical work just to try and make a few bucks on some copper.

One of the items that really attracts thieves is catalytic converters.

Why is that?

In 2020, around 16,600 catalytic converters were stolen in America. In 2022, that number skyrocketed to well over 64,000. It may seem like a senseless and troublesome thing to try and steal, but they’re valuable. While you can’t rebuild or reuse a catalytic converter (so there’s no second-hand market), each one is full of metal, and highly valuable precious metals like platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Couple that with the fact that a single person with an off-the-shelf Home Depot tool can remove one in just over a minute, and you have an item that’s ripe for stealing.

CarFax put together a list of the top ten vehicles targeted for catalytic converter theft, and unsurprisingly, 6 of the 10 were either trucks or SUVs. The larger the ground clearance, the easier it is to slide underneath and start cutting. While it may be surprising, the Toyota Prius is on that list.

Yes, hybrids have catalytic converters. And because a hybrid engine runs cooler that a straight-gasoline engine, those catalytic converters need more of those precious minerals to do the job of cleaning up those emissions.

So, what do you do to protect your vehicle?

The first step is to think about where you park. Having a garage is nice, but invest in some motion-activated lights if you use a driveway. If you’re using a fleet lot, invest in lights, fencing, and even some security cameras (those are getting cheaper and cheaper). We have plenty of cameras here at Bee Green Recycling, and we use them to help our partners in law enforcement track down the folks trying to make a quick buck with stolen metal. Some of those same agencies are taking it a step further: Henrico County Police will spray a stencil on your catalytic converter that says “STOLEN” in bright red letters to let businesses like ours know not to take them.

There’s also a thing called a “cat shield” that can be installed by your mechanic. The cost depends on the make of your vehicle ($50-500), but it is a piece of sheet metal or some heavy cables that helps to deter theft.

It’s likely not your favorite option, but you might reach out to your insurance company. It’s expensive to repair and replace your exhaust after your catalytic converter has been stolen, and for a few extra dollars per premium, you might be able to boost your coverage to help with that cost – especially if you know that there’s been a rash of thefts in your area.

Again – we have cameras. We like to keep things honest, give you a good price for your scrap, and be a responsible partner. If we think that something is stolen, we’re going to work with law enforcement to catch you. But a couple of easy steps could help prevent you from becoming a victim.