Life cycle assessment of chitosan production in India and Europe

Muñoz I, Rodríguez C, Gillet D, Moerschbacher B M (2017)

Publication info

The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, early on-line view 11. March,
Open access: http://rdcu.be/p0kZ

Abstract

Purpose

The aim of this article is to present the first life cycle assessment of chitosan production based on data from two real producers located in India and Europe. The goal of the life cycle assessment (LCA) was to understand the main hot spots in the two supply chains, which are substantially different in terms of raw materials and production locations.

Methods

The LCA is based on consequential modelling principles, whereby allocation is avoided by means of substitution, and market mixes include only flexible, i.e. non-constrained suppliers. The product system is cradle to gate and includes the production of raw materials, namely waste shells from snow crab and shrimp in Canada and India, respectively, the processing of these in China and India and the manufacture of chitosan in Europe and India. Primary data for chitin and chitosan production were obtained from the actual producers, whereas raw material acquisition as well as waste management activities were based on literature sources. The effects of indirect land use change (iLUC) were also included. Impact assessment was carried out at midpoint level by means of the recommended methods in the International Life Cycle Data (ILCD) handbook.

Results and discussion

In the Indian supply chain, the production of chemicals (HCl and NaOH) appears as an important hot spot. The use of shrimp shells as raw material affects the market for animal feed, resulting in a credit in many impact indicators, especially in water use. The use of protein waste as fertilizer is also an important source of greenhouse-gas and ammonia emissions. In the European supply chain, energy use is the key driver for environmental impacts, namely heat production based on coal in China and electricity production in China and Europe. The use of crab shells as raw material avoids the composting process they would be otherwise subject to, leading to a saving in composting emissions, especially ammonia. In the Indian supply chain, the effect of iLUC is relevant, whereas in the European one, it is negligible.

Conclusions

Even though we assessed two products from the same family, the results show that they have very different environmental profiles, reflecting their substantially different supply chains in terms of raw material (shrimp shells vs. crab shells), production locations (locally produced vs. a global supply chain involving three continents) and the different applications (general-purpose chitosan vs. chitosan for the medical sector).

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