Life cycle assessment of chitin and chitosan production in India and Europe

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

Publication info

Presentation for XIII EUCHIS/VIII SIAQ conference, Seville, 31st May to 3rd June 2017. Slides available here:EUCHIS LCA chitosan 2017 Sevilla.


Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an increasingly used tool for environmental assessment of products and services, involving a comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts associated to supply chains, from a product’s ’cradle’ to its ’grave’. We present what to our knowledge constitutes the first LCA applied to chitin and chitosan production based on primary data from two real producers, located in Europe and India, respectively. Production in Europe corresponds to a chitosan for the medical sector, manufactured from chitin produced in China with shells from snow crab caught in teh Atlantic coast of Canada, whereas production in India corresponds to a general-purpose chitosan manufactured from chitin produced from shrimp shells caught in the Arabian Sea.The goal of the LCA was to understand the main ’hotspots’ in the two supply chains, which are substantially different in terms of raw materials and production locations. The product system for each supply chain included the production of raw materials, their processing to produce chitin and the manufacture of chitosan. 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), i.e. potential deforestation associated to the demand for land, were also included. Impact assessment was carried out by means of the recommended methods in the International Life Cycle Data (ILCD) handbook, which includes 15 indicators such as greenhouse-gas emissions, water use and land occupation.

In the Indian supply chain, the production of chemicals (HCl and NaOH) appears as an important hotspot. The use of shrimp shells as raw material affects the market for animal feed, resulting in a beneficial effect in many 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.

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), as well as the different applications (general-purpose chitosan vs. chitosan for the medical sector).

Acknowledgement: This work was supported by European Union project “NanoBioEngineering of BioInspired BioPolymers” which has received funding from the European Union‘s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 613931.