How To Recycle Flags {The Right Way}

By Rebekah Pierce

While most people know how to recycle common items like plastic and aluminum cans, they may not know how to recycle flags. 

Flags can be made from a variety of materials, including cotton, polyester, and nylon, so the recycling process may vary depending on the type of flag. Recycling flags helps reduce waste and keeps these materials out of landfills. Here, we will discuss how to recycle both fabric and plastic flags.

How Do You Dispose Of An American Flag Without Burning It?

The American flag is a powerful symbol of freedom and democracy. Over the years, it has been flown proudly by citizens of all ages, in both times of peace and times of war. However, when a flag becomes worn or damaged, it must be disposed of properly. 

The United States Flag Code states that serviceable flags should never be burned, as this is considered to be a disrespectful act. Instead, flags should be gently folded and stored in a safe, dry place. 

Once they are no longer usable, flags can be brought to a local recycling center or donated to organizations who recycle them into other products. Of course, burning is an option for your flag if it is no longer usable (like if it is very dilapidated or tattered). 

By disposing of flags properly, we can show our respect for this important symbol of our nation.

Where Can I Dispose Of An Old Flag Near Me? 

Flags are often seen as a symbol of patriotism, but when they become worn or tattered, they can be difficult to dispose of in a respectful way. While many people simply throw them away, this is not the most dignified option for a flag that has served its country well. 

Instead, it is best to take the flag to a local veterans’ organization or military base, where it can be properly retired. Most organizations have specific protocols for retiring flags, which usually involve burning them in a ceremony. 

The U.S. Flag Code states: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.” 

If you are going to burn your old flag, make sure it is not made out of polyester or nylon. These two materials, when burned, produce smoke with dangerous chemicals that can harm your lungs. Instead, take the flag to a donation center or bury it. 

Donation centers that accept the American flag include:

  • Ace Hardware
  • Your village hall
  • A local VFW
  • The local fire department

You can bury the flag but only if you do so respectfully. The right way to do this is to fold it in the ceremonial triangle, place it in a sturdy wooden  box, then bury it a few feet in the ground.

This ensures that the flag is disposed of in a respectful and honorable way. If you are unsure of where to take your old flag, a quick internet search should provide you with a few options near you.

Whatever you do, do not put the flag in the garbage. Flags should be treated with honor because they represent the individuals who worked so hard to fight and protect our country. 

If you burn the flag yourself, make sure the flag does not touch the ground until it is in the fire. As it burns, salute the flag, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and pause for a moment of silence. Make sure the flag is burned thoroughly so nothing besides ashes is left. Bury these ashes in the same way mentioned above. 

How To Recycle Flags

Every year, millions of flags are flown to celebrate patriotic holidays and special occasions. Unfortunately, most of these flags end up in the trash after they are taken down. However, it is actually quite easy to recycle an old flag. 

Many organizations that sell flags will also take them back when they are no longer usable. Recycling old flags is a great way to show your patriotism, get rid of your old flag, and show support for American veterans. There are a few ways you can go about recycling your flag if you’re not interested in burning or burying it.

Check with your local chamber of commerce or Veterans of Foreign Wars post to see if there is a flag recycling program in your area. Most state and county government offices, as well as most Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, have flag disposal boxes.

Once these boxes are full, organizations like American Legions or even Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts collect them all and have flag retirement ceremonies. 

These ceremonies often occur on Flag Day, which is June 14 each year. In an American Legion ceremony, participants will stand in two parallel rows about 20 feet apart, facing each other. The fire will burn between them and any flags that are no longer serviceable are burned.

Here’s a video of what happens during a flag retirement ceremony:

In some cases, you may be able to donate your flag to a nonprofit. Some, like Stars for Our Troops, cut old flags up. They cut embroidered stars and then give them to veterans with a note that reminds them that their service was important and will not be forgotten. 

There are even some companies that will accept American flags for direct recycling. These Companies – often flag manufacturers themselves – will cut up the old flags and use the old material to make new flags for sale. 

Recycle Old Flags The Right Way

By taking a few simple steps, you can ensure that your old flag is given a respectful second life.

These are just a few tips to help get you started recycling flags. If you have any other ideas or suggestions, feel free to share them in the comments section below. Be sure to also check out our website for more information on how to recycle all kinds of materials.

Now it’s time for you to go out and start recycling those flags! Have you tried any of these techniques?

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