The U.S. became the world's biggest wine market last year (beating France for the first time), but most of us are unaware that winemaking results in a lot of waste--and that wine waste such as seeds, stems and grape skin can be used to create other consumer goods.

"After the final pressing, more than half the grapes crushed end up as biomass waste comprised of skins, pulp, stalks and seeds," according to an article from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia published Tuesday.

This waste has limited use as animal feed because of its poor nutrient value and digestibility, unlike other agricultural byproducts - and wine waste doesn't work as compost because it doesn't degrade, "so a majority of this grape waste ends up as toxic landfill."

In recent years, however, researchers have found ways to use winery waste for consumer purposes. Here are 5:

Biofuels. Swinburne PhD student Avinash Karpe has found a way to break down the waste with the help of various fungi by generating enzymes. The enzymes convert the waste into soluble sugars - which can be converted into ethanol and other biofuels. "This fermentation process takes one to three weeks and produces alcohols, acids and simple sugars of industrial and medicinal interest," he said.

Skin care products. Keracol, a company formed by The University of Leeds in the U.K., has partnered with Marks & Spencer to create a natural skincare regimen using the waste products of grapes. Keracol came up with a new way to extract resveratrol, a natural molecule found in the outer skins of red grapes. Resveratrol is a well-known antioxidant with protective anti-aging properties.

Nutritional supplements and food preservatives. By grounding muscadine grape skin and seeds into a powder and soaking that powder in a solution of enzymes, researchers at the University of Florida are improving the antioxidant activity of the waste and creating nutritional supplements. Skin and seed extract from muscadine grapes can also be used as natural food preservatives, they found.

Gluten-free flour substitutes. A sister company of California winemaker Kendall-Jackson has partnered with a local miller to produce flour, which comes in 16 varieties based on the different wine grapes used to make it, NPR reported last year. These different flours can be used for everything from cabernet brownies to violet-colored pasta.

Published on: Sep 24, 2014