Plant Secondary Metabolites: An Opportunity for Circular Economy

Molecules. 2021 Jan 18;26(2):495. doi: 10.3390/molecules26020495.

Abstract

Moving toward a more sustainable development, a pivotal role is played by circular economy and a smarter waste management. Industrial wastes from plants offer a wide spectrum of possibilities for their valorization, still being enriched in high added-value molecules, such as secondary metabolites (SMs). The current review provides an overview of the most common SM classes (chemical structures, classification, biological activities) present in different plant waste/by-products and their potential use in various fields. A bibliographic survey was carried out, taking into account 99 research articles (from 2006 to 2020), summarizing all the information about waste type, its plant source, industrial sector of provenience, contained SMs, reported bioactivities, and proposals for its valorization. This survey highlighted that a great deal of the current publications are focused on the exploitation of plant wastes in human healthcare and food (including cosmetic, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and food additives). However, as summarized in this review, plant SMs also possess an enormous potential for further uses. Accordingly, an increasing number of investigations on neglected plant matrices and their use in areas such as veterinary science or agriculture are expected, considering also the need to implement "greener" practices in the latter sector.

Keywords: bioactivities; circular economy; natural products; plant by-products; plant secondary metabolites; waste valorization.

Publication types

  • Review