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Ways To Properly Dispose of An Old American Flag

5 Ways To Properly Dispose of An Old American Flag

A flag of any nation represents the pride and sacrifices of such a country. Hence, it is important that the flag must be treated with utmost respect. Any mishandling is considered as a serious offense including the destruction, retirement and dispose of a flag if done in an inappropriate or disrespectful manner. There are provisions provided in United States Flag Code (4 USC Sec 8 Para (k) Amended 7 July 1976) states explain that if an Old American Flag is not in a condition of the fitting emblem of display, it can be destroyed but only in a dignified way. If you are wondering what to do with old American flags, there are 5 brilliant ways to dispose of an American flag.

Brilliant Ways to Dispose of / Recycle an American Flag

So, here is the guide which explains how to properly dispose of the American Flag without leading to any offense:

1. Flag Shredding to Dispose of American Flag

If the shredding is done by the reverence, it becomes an acceptable method of American Flag disposal. All the thirteen strips should be separated using sharp scissors without touching the blue star-spangled field. Once shredded, the flag can be buried piece by piece starting with the stripes and ending with the star part. Alternatively, the ceremonial burn can be adopted.

2. Recycling – An Eco-Friendly Way to Dispose of American Flag

The traditional American flags were made out of cloth or any other natural fabric. But today there are several materials like polyester, nylon and other artificial materials.  Hence burning off the flag made out of such materials causes harmful fumes and other environmental hazards.

Hence recycling is another option meant for such American flags which are made out of synthetic materials. You can also contact various private and non-profit organizations like American Flag recycling to recycle such flags.

3. Refer a Qualified Organization To Give Away Your Flag

How To Properly Dispose of An Old American Flag

US Military, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Boys and Girl American Scouts and The American Legion provide the services to conduct ceremonial disposition of flags at no charge. You need to request any such qualified organization.

Contact the local government or your city hall, if you do not have direct access to any of the above-mentioned organizations.

4. How to Get Rid of the American Flag With a Local Option?

Prince William Country Landfills is the official center for the flag disposition which was opened in 2014. It is considered as the combined effort of the Bull Run District and Boy Scouts o American Occupation. As the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are some of the qualified organizations which have considerable experience in flag burning ceremonies, all the flags dropped with Prince William County are handed over to such organizations.

5. Ceremonial Flag  Burning

A specific ceremony is conducted under the ceremonial flag burning where the flag is folded in a prescribed way and laid on fire respectfully.  The flag on fire is saluted and if someone is available to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, it is done while the flag is on burial. Sing the national anthem.

It is important to know that these methods are applicable to the official American flags only. If you own a bandana or any t-shirt bearing an American flag, it is not required to dispose of in a similar way.

Is it Legal to Burn the Flag?

If you are confused about can you burn the flag? The answer is simply yes. But there is a prescribed way to do so. Here is what to do with your American flag to burn it off legally:

  • Use a campfire or bonfire to destroy the American Flag. You can arrange a dedicated fire area or any well-maintained fire pit away from trees and buildings at a safer location. Ensure that there should not be debris, garbage or leaves which can eventually spread the fire and cause haphazard. Moreover, such things also pose a threat to the dignity of the flag.
  • Ignite the fire at the fireplace and ensure a steady burn. Ensure the fire must be strong enough to cremate the entire flag. But it should not be extensively intense that it blows out the flag into pieces.
  • Check the local and state laws as the fire construction needs permission from the local government and it is considered an offense if you do so without any permission. You can also visit the Environmental Protection Agency website to understand the procedure and guidelines.
  • Avoid burning the American flag on the windy days as the chances are high that due to excessive wind, the flag may burn down partially. Secondly, if the fire will blow away, it can cause serious environmental hazards.
  • Generally, the tattered and torn flag which is not in the condition of the display is considered for the purpose of retirement. If the flag is currently flying high on a pole, lower it down slowly with respect. A triangle fold is recommended as a traditional fold for the flag which mandatory needs to be done before disposing of an American flag.
  • If you are uncertain about the folding method, consult a guide. Veterans of Foreign Wars Website can also be referred to understand the traditional style of folding an American flag.
  • Make sure to handle the lag with the utmost respect. Never put it on the ground or anything above it while taking it towards the fire.
  • Try to place the folded flag at the center of a fireplace to ensure the complete burial of the flag without leaving any remains. You need to be extra cautious as the excessive heat may also burn your hand.
  • If you find the fire ignition to be excessively high, you can wait for it to come down and then place the flag respectfully and carefully.
  • Remember to not to throw the flag onto the fire which is accounted as the disrespect of the flag. Even incomplete flag burning is counted under offense and reflects the disrespect towards the flag.
  • Observe the reverence of the flag while burning. To showcase your respect, you can also salute the burning flag. It is important to not to crack jokes, make jokes or never chat while the lag is burning.
  • Under official flag burning ceremonies, an elaborated ceremony is conducted with a formal invitation, presentation, recognition and destruction of American flags.
  • You can also arrange a short speech if accompanied by a group which should comprise the questions relating to the flag like how do you feel after burning the flag? Do you feel sad while retiring it? Etc.


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