Chitin is a long-chain polymer, which is a derivative of glucose and one of themost abundant polymers in the natural world. Chitin is a primary characteristic component of the cell walls of fungi, exoskeletons of arthropods such as crustaceans or insects, the shells of molluscs and the beaks and internal shells of cephalopods such as squidand octopuses. It is also found in small amounts in the scales and other soft tissues of fish and amphibians.
Though chitin (and chitosan) have sustainable sources of raw feedstock, these substances are highly sensitive to impurities or changes in make-up when used in medicinal, industrial and bio-technological purposes. Impure bulk chitin such as used in waste water treatment is at the bottom of the 'quality spectrum' with medicinal uses being at the top end of the quality-spectrum and prices are purely based on "consistency" of supply as chitin is used for very specific purposes in high-end pharmaceuticals.
Currently chitin is primarily created from waste by-products of the prawn/ shrimp meat industry. When prawns/ shrimp are de-shelled, their shells are crushed and processed to extract different chemicals (chitin, chitosan and glucosamine) but blending different crustaceans from different seas and sources is all for the lower-end market. (Furthermore chitin is treated with 40% a concentrated sodium hydroxide chemical solution with disposal costs, and producing 1 kilogram of chitosan from shrimp shells requires more than 1 tonne of water and is energy intensive)
As a result, good quality chitosan regularly is sold for $200 per kilogram ($200,000 a tonne). Most chitin facilities exist in China, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia.
However, the extraction of chitin from BSFL (skin and shells) is much more cost effective than extracting from shell fish waste, and with a consistent substrate supply (both in terms of consistency and volume).