Biohydrogen is a sustainable form of energy as it can be produced from organic waste through fermentation processes involving dark fermentation and photofermentation. Very often biohydrogen is included as a part of biorefinery approaches, which reclaim organic wastes that are abundant sources of renewable and low cost substrate that can be efficiently fermented by microorganisms. The aim of this work was to critically assess selected bioenergy alternatives from organic solid waste, such as biohydrogen and bioelectricity, to evaluate their relative advantages and disadvantages in the context of biorefineries, and nally to indicate the trends for future research and development. Biorefining is the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of marketable products, which means: energy, materials, chemicals, food and feed. Dark fermentation of organic wastes could be the beach-head of complete biorefineries that generate biohydrogen as a first step and could significantly influence the future of solid waste management. Series systems show a better efficiency than one-stage process regarding substrate conversion to hydrogen and bioenergy. The dark fermentation also produces fermented by-products (fatty acids and solvents), so there is an opportunity for further combining with other processes that yield more bioenergy. Photoheterotrophic fermentation is one of them: photosynthetic heterotrophs, such as non-sulfur purple bacteria, can thrive on the simple organic substances produced in dark fermentation and light, to give more H2. Effluents from photoheterotrophic fermentation and digestates can be processed in microbial fuel cells for bioelectricity production and methanogenic digestion for methane generation, thus integrating a diverse block of bioenergies. Several digestates from bioenergies could be used for bioproducts generation, such as cellulolytic enzymes and saccharification processes, leading to ethanol fermentation (another bioenergy), thus completing the inverse cascade. Finally, biohydrogen, biomethane and bioelectricity could contribute to significant improvements for solid organic waste management in agricultural regions, as well as in urban areas. © The Author(s) 2014.