Tomato Residue Management from a Biorefinery Perspective and towards a Circular Economy

Foods. 2024 Jun 14;13(12):1873. doi: 10.3390/foods13121873.


The tomato industry is a relevant socio-economic activity in the European Union, while it generates a large variety of residues. Tomatoes unfit for consumption, tomato peels, seeds, industrial pomace, and plants are examples of residues of this industry. Commonly, some of the residues can be left in the field, composted, used for animal feeding, or valorized through anaerobic digestion. However, more economic value can be attributed to these residues if a biorefinery approach is applied. Indeed, many value-added compounds can be obtained by the integration of different processes while closing the carbon and nutrient loops. The extraction of bioactive compounds followed by anaerobic digestion and composting seems to be a viable proposal for a biorefinery approach. Thus, this study aims to review the biorefinery strategies for valorizing tomato residues, highlighting the main processes proposed. The recovery of lycopene, β-carotene, and phenolic compounds has been widely studied at the lab scale, while energy recovery has already been applied at the industrial scale. Although techno-economic analysis is scarce for tomato residue valorization processes, positive net present values (NPV) and low payback times (PBT) have been reported in the literature. Thus, more work comparing multiple extraction technologies and biorefinery strategies coupled with economic and environmental assessment should be performed to select the most promising management route for tomato residues.

Keywords: anaerobic digestion; circular economy; composting; economic evaluation; extraction; resources recovery.

Publication types

  • Review