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Scrap metal theft increases as UK struggles with recession

14 Sep 2011


For years, Britain has sent its recyclable goods across the globe as there was little demand for its scrap value in this country.

However, in these financially straitened times, and with the looming possibility of a double-dip recession , there has been an increased interest in scrap value within the UK.

Discarded mobile phones and unloved jewellery are being dug out from the back of drawers as people welcome the thought of a few pounds for the small effort of recycling their goods.

Larger items like washing machines and iron clothes poles no longer languish at the roadside awaiting council collection – instead the recycling elves magic them away in the middle of the night.

However, in some instances the spirit of recycling has been taken several steps too far – as thieves target church roofs and even train cable as a source of precious metals, prompting a police crackdown on the crime.

Now thieves are targeting a new source of valuable metals – almost literally from under people’s noses. Catalytic converters are beginning to disappear from under cars parked outside overnight, with over 2,300 stolen in the UK in the first half of this year.

What is a catalytic converter?

Catalytic converters are designed to reduce carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons (a major component of smog) and nitrogen oxides (also contributors to smog and acid rain). Once gases are emitted from the exhaust chamber, they pass into the exhaust system. A lambda sensor measures and adjusts the air/fuel ratio and stops unburnt fuel reaching the CAT directly.

When the gases reach the CAT they are exposed to a coating of precious metals which act as a catalyst on these gases, converting them from harmful to safe fumes.

It is these precious metals – including palladium, platinum and rhodium – which make the CAT a target for thieves.

‘Catalytic converters are an essential part of your vehicle, keeping emissions within environmentally acceptable levels.’ Says Mike Bourne of National Tyres and Autocare. ‘If you suspect that your vehicle has been tampered with, please take it along to your local National centre where trained staff will be happy to give your vehicle a free visual check to put your mind at rest.’ Find your nearest branch at

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