What Happens to the Seed Packets?

You know all those racks full of seed packets that pop up in stores in the spring and early summer? By midsummer, they’re usually gone. But there are still lots of leftover seed packets in the displays before they disappear.

So what happens to these seeds?

I can’t imagine that they’re thrown out. Most varieties remain viable for a number of years if they’re stored properly–usually in a cool and dry place. Conditions in the average retail store are less than ideal, but in the vast majority of cases, the germination percentage would remain high enough that the seeds would still have some value. Right?

So are they repackaged and sold at a discount? Or are they indeed thrown out?

Can’t speak for others, but we boxed them up and sent them to the supplier to get some amount of credit for them. I imagine that the profit margin is high enough on them to where the supplier recoups his costs after selling only a small portion of the seeds that get shipped to us.

This is what we did as well. I have no idea what the supplier does with them, but seeds are so cheap I can’t imagine that they’d go through the expense of reprocessing them.

Ditto here in the Northeast. The margins are pretty high–we get full cost credit for all returns. Not sure what the suppliers do with them, but if they don’t have a donation program set up, they’re likely destroyed. Cheaper than reinserting them into the product stream. Sad, yes. Sometimes we’re a terribly wasteful society.

I worked for Home Depot for a number of years. When seeds were HD owned we bought them for next to nothing and sold them at 300-500% mark ups. Given the value of the product and what we made on it already it was rarely justified letting it take up space till the next season so they just got tossed.

In more recent years all the seeds are sold on commision. HD gets a percentage of the selling price and the distributer owns the product. At the end of the season suppliers varied some would want the unsold product back others just had us throw it out. I assume product sent back is sorted by date and stuff that still has a good probability of growing the next season is warehoused and sent back to HD again.


Part of this year’s bird seed was last year’s vegetable seeds. That’s why there’s turnips and broccoli growing under the power lines.

The bargin seeds are sold to the retailer cheap, and they are not returnable. Most of the large assortments, are sent back to the grower for credit by the fall. Some of the specialty seeds are also not returnable. The envelopes must always show the season they were packed for. The old seeds need to have the new sticker put on them the next year, giving the new packed for date and the new germanation rate. Most seeds are good for years, but the germination rate goes down yearly. Nothing prevents the seed being sent out again the next year if they want.