Unboxing: Chiltern Seeds

In the last few months we have committed ourselves to challenging the use of plastics when we shop. This has all come about through our unboxing films, so far we have looked at Real Seeds, Seeds of Italy (who have come back to us with exciting news, more on that later), D.T. Brown and David Austin Roses. We've shown you how we went peat free over two years ago and how that transition, though tricky, has paid dividends for us in terms of physical health - no more need to lug in heavy bags of compost. So, why can't we go plastic free or at least plastic reduced? This project has been about buying seeds, unboxing seed and telling you what we think*. It's not been popular with some people but has been with others. We know that change can be slow but with the scuppering of the Horticulture sector going peat free by 2020 we now need to challenge use of single plastics, packaging and even seed production (more on that at another time) to show that as gardeners we are not part of the climate change problem, we are part of the solution. We can never turn our planet back to what it was but we can stop the flood of plastics into our ocean. If every gardener in the UK today committed to removing unnecessary plastics from their lives it would mean that just under half the nation will help our planet. To give you an idea of how much plastic we throw away as a nation, we chuck away roughly 295 billion pieces of plastic each year. That means as gardeners we could save up to 147.5 billion pieces of plastic going into landfill, furnaces and the ocean. That's billions of products that we need to challenge. It also means that in a year we are personally responsible for over 5000 pieces of plastic. So, do you think that you can't make a difference? Think again. I am not asking you to chuck out every plastic plant pot or tray, remove every plastic plant label from your life, I am asking you to keep care of that plastic and when you cannot use it anymore, replace it with something that can be reused, recycled or composted. That's why we are unboxing, to not just challenge seed producers and you but us too, if we can make the changes, we all can. 

FSC, jiffy bag

I love Chiltern Seeds, they produce some great products and more importantly stock seeds not available in many of the seed companies that most of us shop with. When I came to unbox them though I did have a sinking feeling when I saw the usual jiffy bag drop through our letterbox at Pig Row. Let's get something straight here, the FSC mark does give you confidence that the paper has come from responsible sources; these sources tend to be managed woodlands, fast growing trees for use in toiletries, publishing, furniture and packaging. However, when you combine it in the jiffy bag format you take away any chance of recycling it, sure it could protect your seed from being crushed by an elephant but the likely chance of that happening in the UK is zero. It's just one more example of a plastic being bonded to paper that seeds it go straight into a landfill or a furnace. If the envelope had just been paper then it would have gone in our recycling bin. This though is common in the industry but it is a change that some companies are aware needs to happen, from potato cellulose to bamboo packaging, a change will happen if we all push for it.

Brown bags, seeds

Inside, the seed is packaged in brown bags, great. With sellotape, not great. The sellotape goes in the bin, can't be recycled, another example of plastic being wasted. Think of all that sellotape you use during the year or all that sellotape you receive in packaging and you get the idea how quickly you can get to 5000 pieces of plastic being thrown away by each of us. The brown paper bags we would have saved for collecting our own seed but the sellotape rips the bags even when we try to cut them open with a sharp knife. This means that some of the paper bag goes in the bin and not the recycling bin or compost heap. A plus though is that Chiltern have for years produced all the seed packets in paper, they were at the forefront of this change, foregoing plastic coated packaging for something that still did the job and when I have used the packets they will go in the paper bin. This is all tied up in the Chiltern brand, the idea of plants that are unusual from the past, growing a way we once grew which makes me question the sellotape and jiffy bag use more as they are totally outside that brand image. Sorry if that sounds anal but you have to think about these things when combating plastic, does plastic fit the company? If not, why are they using it? Sure, it's an easy product but it won't secure the brands future. That's how you fight to get rid of plastic, in terms of economical growth. 

Chiltern seeds

There's no denying that Chiltern produce quality seed and unusual varieties, some of the seeds we have here are Bears Breeches (we know it is a thug but we have quarter of an acre and we need some thugs), Cup and Saucer plant for our new obelisks and a trio of herbs we love: dill, basil and coriander. On the whole, Chiltern is doing their bit for recyclable seed packets but they could do so much more in recyclable packaging, even dumping the sellotape for old fashioned brown tape would be a step forward because brown tape can go in the paper bin. So, come on Chiltern, embrace the sustainable and ditch the jiffy bag.

Thank you for taking time to read this post, we'd be grateful if you support us by dropping in on our Facebook Page, it's a friendly page full of growers and bakers where you can ask questions that will help you in the garden or kitchen. If you're at work and want a quick chat between those growing piles of things to do then use your phone to contact us via twitter. If you're on the way home and you just want to watch a relaxing film then tune in on our YouTube Channel. If your world is a world of photos then trawl through thousands of them on our Instagram account. Finally, if you have any energy left after doing all that, share us with your family and friends. Remember, what you see is what you get with us, from successes to epic cock ups in our hillside garden and kitchen on top of the world. We are the Oldhams' and for us it's all about the good life in a hectic world.

* Seed providers have not been forewarned, all products received are purchased by us and this blog post does not constitute as an advertisement or endorsement of the company being discussed. This is not a paid advert. We get what you get in the post.


  1. Actually, true sellotape (like cellophane) comes from wood cellulose, thus the name, and is compostable, maybe not domestically though.

    1. Actually this is a misnomer, sellotape is plastic. Though originally produced from cellulose if you go or email the main producers of sellotape they will tell you that they switched to plastic thirty years ago as it is longer lasting and means it can be stored for longer periods and are no impacted on by changes in temperature. So, not biodegradable.

    2. I confirmed what I though with this:

      The sellotape website has changed and no longer seems to feature that quote.

      The link to the green earth office still works and features a different brand of cellophane tape, so it is at least still a thing.

      I suppose if you don't want plastic, something that may or may not be plastic is just as bad, potentially worse, as you then can't recycle it as plastic.

      You might find the latest Gardeners World program of interest btw, it was a bit of a plastic reduction special.

      Anyway good luck.
      Looking forward to dig for victory mk2 :)

    3. Yes, it appears their info is out of date. We could move back to cellulose but it breaks down too fast. Which is probably why it isn’t used anymore. Brown tape breaks down but is not used. Thanks for the comments and kind words.

    4. For completeness, I got this reply from Sellotape:

      "For reasons of supply, Henkel were no longer able to continue to use cellulose film for the manufacture of Sellotape from 2010. Consequently, the composition of Sellotape is now a polypropylene film coated with a water based acrylic adhesive."

    5. Thanks for this. It shows that we are not always aware of what is in our most basic products.