Alberta has made it difficult to sell catalytic converters to scrap dealers. What has happened since?

Eric Grand-Maison says buying and recycling old catalytic converters was a big part of his business. But since the provincial government introduced new rules for sellers and buyers, sales have slowed significantly at Big House Converters.

He says there seems to be a booming underground market for the valuable devices.

Grand-Maison flipped through a long list of ads on his phone that offered money for converters and cars – a practice that can circumvent legislative changes approved at the end of 2020.

« He did nothing to stop the theft. The theft only increased, not decreased, » he said.

The Calgary Police Department says 2,754 thefts of catalytic converters have been reported in 2022 through the end of October. In 2021, there were 1,560. The CPS warns the spike may be the result of late reporting of thefts that occurred the previous year. In any case, the thefts took place after the entry into force of the new requirements.

Alberta passed the Protecting Alberta Industry from Theft Act in 2020. The legislation requires scrap metal dealers to report transactions to law enforcement and make all payments using traceable forms of currency, such as wire transfers or checks.

An ad for a catalytic converter posted on Kijiji. Eric Grand-Maison thinks unregulated buyers are still offering money to converters despite legislative changes aimed at deterring theft. (kijiji)

Vendors must also provide government-issued photo ID. Dealerships are required to record and retain vendor identification information and transaction details.

« We used to do about 5,000 to 10,000 converters a month on average, and now we’re probably doing about one [thousand] to 2,500 converters per month,” Grand-Maison said.

Grand-Maison believes the new regulations have created a lucrative black market for the items.

« It’s all going underground because we can’t pay cash, » he said.

Eric Grand-Maison holds a sample of fine materials following the treatment of a catalytic converter. The material will be tested to determine the amount of precious metals.
Some of the contents of a catalytic converter after it was recycled and processed at Big House Converters in Calgary. The sample will be tested for precious metal content. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

Catalytic converters are part of a vehicle’s exhaust system, making pollutants less toxic before they are expelled through the tailpipe. Converters contain small amounts of expensive metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium, which have increased in value in recent years.

“There has been an increase in flying across the country, not just in Calgary,” the staff sergeant said. Mark Auger with the City’s District 6 General Investigations Unit.

« It’s no secret that converter components have high monetary value, making them a target, an opportunistic target for violators, » he said.

« And there’s a big reward when they’re able to exchange that component for cash. »

According to the Alberta RCMP, the number of catalytic converter thefts reached 1,302 by the end of September. There were 1,452 for the whole of 2021. These statistics are for all areas under RCMP jurisdiction in Alberta, which excludes most large municipalities.

Calgary police say thieves will take a stolen converter to a third party, who will then transfer it to a legal recycler, who will buy it.

According to ALERT, Alberta’s Law Enforcement Response Team, Alberta scrap dealers reported 8,035 catalytic converter transactions in the first nine months of 2022 worth $17.2 million.

Flights offer opportunities

One of the owners of a Minute Muffler in northeast Calgary says it’s unfortunate that so many thefts are being reported, but it has also provided a business opportunity.

They install wire cables around catalytic converters in an attempt to deter thieves.

“Anything to make it a little harder, a little longer for them to fly,” said Ravi Chandra.

« If they want it, they’ll have it. But if you’re in the mall and it takes a few extra minutes or seconds to pick it up, they might just move on to the next vehicle, » he said.

Cables vary in price depending on the vehicle, but purchasing and installing them can cost a few hundred dollars.

Grand-Maison offers a laser engraving service that prints the vehicle identification number directly on the converter. This could potentially help police trace the device back to the owner.

Grand-Maison says he would like to see a crackdown on buyers who post ads that appear to circumvent provincial regulations. He says they should not be allowed to operate without a valid business license.

Eric Grand-Maison, the president of Big House Converters, is pictured at his Southeast business.
Eric Grand-Maison is the president of Big House Converters, a scrap metal dealer and recycler in Calgary. He believes that the demands to stem the flow of catalytic converter thefts have not been effective. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

The new requirements provide stiffer penalties for individuals and companies found guilty of trafficking stolen scrap metal. In addition to the increased fines, an offender also faces up to a year in prison.

« It’s driven the industry underground, where it’s just people buying it with money, and they’re shipping it off to another facility, whether it’s outside the province or country. »

Auger says if someone files a complaint against an alleged cash buyer, he will investigate.

« Until they are brought to our attention, we cannot deal with them properly, » he said.

A spokesperson for the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services said only that consultations with the scrap metal dealers are continuing, but no further details were provided.

“We continue to work with scrap dealers to help address any challenges in implementing the law and encourage any Albertans who have been targeted by scrap metal or catalytic converter thieves to contact their police department. local, » the spokesperson said in an email.

bryan Labby is a corporate reporter at CBC Calgary. If you have a great story idea or piece of advice, you can reach him at or on Twitter at @CBCBryan.


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