How to Dispose of an American Flag

How to Dispose of an American Flag

Posted by Philip Kauppinen on 12th Jan 2024

If your American flag has become tattered, worn, or faded, you may be wondering of the proper way to dispose of it.  US Flag Code states that “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.” 

Commonly, American flags are disposed of during retirement ceremonies by respectfully burning flags no longer suitable for use.

Flag Retirement Ceremony

flag retirement ceremony is a dignified and respectful event held to retire and dispose of old American flags. Flag retirement ceremonies are often held by organizations such as American Legions, Boy/Girl Scouts, and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). Flags are collected in disposal boxes often located at local government buildings or police stations. 

Flag retirement ceremonies are commonly held on the night of June 14th (Flag Day). Specifics of the ceremony depend on the organizing group. Generally, flags will be inspected to confirm they are suitable for retirement and then respectfully burned. During the ceremony, participants may salute, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or say a prayer. The ashes of the flag are then respectfully discarded, often by burial.

Who is Allowed to Retire a Flag?

Anyone who possesses an unserviceable American flag can hold a flag retirement ceremony. Individuals who want to retire a flag can either do so themselves following proper protocol or contact one of the local organizations listed above for assistance. 

Remember to approach the retirement of an American flag with the respect and solemnity it deserves, ensuring that the process aligns with established flag etiquette and traditions.

How Do You Dispose of an American Flag at Home? 

American flags can be disposed of at home by following the traditional method of burning the flag in a respectful and dignified manner. Before conducting a flag retirement ceremony at home, be sure to follow local fire ordinances and ensure that the material is suitable for burning. For example, nylon or polyester American Flags are not suitable for burning as they release toxic fumes. 

To begin the at home ceremony, the flag must be inspected to ensure it is no longer suitable for display. Choose a safe location to build a controlled fire that follows local ordinances. Before burning, properly fold the American flag. Place the flag into the fire while saluting, reciting the pledge of allegiance, or observing a moment of silence. Collect the ashes and dispose of them in a respectful manner. 

If you are unable to hold a Flag burning ceremony due to local fire regulations or flag material, there are alternative options. The most common alternative to burning is a burial. To respectfully bury the flag, it must be properly folded and placed in a dignified box.

Is it Illegal to Burn the American Flag? 

Burning the American flag respectfully is the most common form of Flag retirement ceremonies. While the act of burning the flag during a ceremony is not illegal, it is important to ensure that building the fire itself is legal and follows local ordinances. 

While controversial, the Supreme Court has ruled that burning the American flag in protest is free speech protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. However, there may be legal consequences if the burning of the flag is done with the purpose of inciting violence or other unlawful activities.

Where to Buy a New American Flag

Are you in need of a new American flag after retiring your old one? Whether you're a proud homeowner, business owner, or community leader, Grand New Flag can help. Our Nylon American flags and Polyester American flags are weather resistant, available in a variety of sizes, and 100% Made in the USA. Shop all of our American flags now.