Until recently, the remnants from the tomato canning process, in the form of tons upon tons of tomato skins, were thrown out. However, scientists have finally found an effective use for them.
Realistically speaking, 4 tons of tomatoes are produced every second on Earth. The total annual world production comes out to a mind-boggling 145 million tons. Waste, in the form of seeds, fiber and skins is around 2.2% of the tomato.
Number 1 is Italy, with their annual tomato waste coming out to over 100 000 tons. The cost of processing is about 4 euros per ton. Usually, waste products are used for the production of biogas or food for animals.
For 2 years now, scientists from Parma have been working on a project financed by the European Union. It costs 800 000 euros and aims to use tomato skins instead of synthetic varnishes and resins for the gluing together of tin cans.
This idea is possible thanks to the cutin contained in the vegetable skins. A specific type of bio varnish is produced from this substance, which will be used to cover the outer and inner surfaces of the metal cans.
At the time being, metal cans are glued together mainly using polymers and resins. They contain Bisphenol A - a chemical compound banned in the manufacturing of pacifiers in numerous countries. Starting 2015, it is to be banned from use in all types of food containers.
All of this is due to Bisphenol A's ability to leech into the food products themselves. And this calls for urgently finding a safe alternative. And that's where red tomato skins come in.
In charge of the project is Dr. Angela Montanari. She asserts that the processing and turning of these skins into varnishes will not be an expensive process. If the project keeps going at the same success rate it has had so far, cans with a tomato coating will be available on the market in 2 years at the latest.