Libyans found a way to make money by selling the catalytic converters in the exhaust pipes of cars.
Garages that handle and buy them are widespread, and each one offers a different price to buy the box, which reduces toxic gases from the exhaust pipes of cars.
Since the European Union introduced new standards for reducing CO2 emissions from cars in 2014, the price of palladium has skyrocketed. Palladium, one of the metals used in the manufacture of catalysts, is now valued at $ 2,590 (£ 1,926) an ounce, and currently outperforms gold at $ 1,640 (£ 1,219) an ounce. Palladium is extracted in Russia and South Africa and is also used in the manufacture of electronic devices, jewelry and in dentistry.
This metal has also become a source of wealth for some Libyan families, who use the money from its sales to pay off debts, rent and medicines. In contrast, protecting the environment in times of war and hunger is a luxury, says Hisham ben Soraiti Independent Arabia, “I found out from my friend that I had hidden treasure in my car. Given the dry economy, late salaries, and rising prices, my friend and I went to one of the carbon dealers who had a specialized workshop and who had a large sign posted describing the nature of his work.
“He had a number of African workers who were busy disassembling catalysts and handing them to the shop manager, who weighed them on the scales he’d placed on his desk next to huge amounts of crisp money.”
Prices differ from retailer to retailer. Salim Al-Ojaili, owner of one of the carbon trading workshops, believes that buying by weight does not give the seller the true value of the product.
Speak with Independent ArabiaHe said, “Price is not measured by weight, but by quality. This can be determined by the digital code or key that is written on the converter, the value of which is displayed according to the prices indicated in a special catalog. The price is then estimated based on the current value of the dollar. ”
Mr. Al-Ojaili, who has been in the field since 2005, stressed that there are a large number of foreign traders who are taking advantage of people’s ignorance and desperation for cash by buying catalysts from them at extremely low prices. The price of the palladium in the converters is related to several factors, including the scarcity of this metal and the limited global supply.
Hussain Al-Mahdi, who works in one of the workshops on carbon, said: “Buying converters with palladium, rhodium and platinum involves both Libyan and foreign representatives of American, British and German companies.” Mr. Al-Mahdi denied reports after which the metal is taken to southern Libya and used to purify gold.
The shortage of palladium has caused its value to skyrocket, according to Bloomberg. This is because several countries have put severe restrictions in place to end car and truck pollution, and because manufacturers are required to increase the amount of palladium used to make vehicles.
“The number of cars that are brought into the workshop is not the same every day, but depends on the money that is available to the people. Some days we work on five cars and on others we get 35 to 50 cars, and the prices are between 500 and 6000 Libyan dinars (370 to 4430 US dollars) depending on the quality of the metal, “says Al-Mahdi, who continues:” There are two types of customers: ordinary people and dealers who sometimes have up to 100 cars. “
Mr. Al-Ojaili believes that “the correct installation of a metal screen where the catalytic converter would have been would reduce the amount of toxic gases from car exhausts”. In contrast, Ibrahim Aswaidiq, who works in a car repair shop, believes that “the content of the catalytic converter is important for the maintenance of the vehicle’s engine and that without it, the gases emitted can have a harmful effect.”
Mr. Al-Ojaili said, “The age of the catalyst is theoretical, if it expires the engine will be damaged.” According to the World Health Organization, “Every year around the world 8 million people die ahead of their time from the effects of air pollution-related diseases such as breast allergies and lung cancer.” Scientific studies also indicate “how pollution is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease” .
Despite the controversy surrounding the sale of catalytic converters, car dealers in Libya price these boxes according to the value of their contents and the price of the car, and advertisements for workshops dealing with carbon are being published. Opinions are still divided between those who totally oppose the idea on environmental grounds and those for whom the provision of food and shelter for their families is a more pressing concern than the environment.
Translated by Tooba Ali, edited and proofread by Celine Assaf