How To Dispose Of American Flag: A Comprehensive Guide


The American flag is a cherished symbol of our nation’s freedom and pride. When it becomes worn, tattered, or torn, it’s important to retire it with the respect it deserves. But what is the proper way to dispose of an American flag? This article will explore several methods of flag disposal that are respectful, legal, and environmentally responsible.

Traditional flag disposal: burning the flag in a respectful ceremony

For many Americans, burning the flag may seem like a disrespectful act. However, when done properly, it is actually a very respectful way to retire an American flag. In fact, according to the United States Flag Code, “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.”

The burning of a flag is typically done during a flag-folding ceremony. Here’s how to perform this respectful ceremony:

  1. Select a suitable location for the ceremony. This could be a fire pit, an outdoor fireplace, or any other appropriate area for a controlled fire.
  2. Assemble the participants in the ceremony, including members of a veterans’ organization.
  3. Begin by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer or an appropriate reading on the meaning of the flag.
  4. Unfold the flag and lay it completely flat on a table or other flat surface. Fold the flag lengthwise over itself, then fold it again lengthwise over itself. Continue folding the flag in this manner until only a small triangle of blue with white stars is visible.
  5. Hold onto the end of the folded flag opposite the small triangle and with the other hand, grasp the top of the folded triangle. Slowly and ceremoniously lift the flag and carry it to the fire pit.
  6. Place the folded flag on the fire and slowly and respectfully allow the flag to be consumed by the flames.
  7. After the flag has been completely consumed, the ashes should be gathered and buried in a dignified manner.

It’s vital to research and follow local fire codes and regulations related to burning a flag in a respectful ceremony.

Flag recycling programs

Recycling a flag allows Americans to dispose of their old flags in an environmentally friendly way. Multiple flag recycling programs exist and are widespread throughout the nation.

One such program is Flag Retirement USA, which allows Americans to send in their old flags to be properly disposed of in a dignified way. Another program, Stars For Our Troops, turns old flags into stars and distributes them to veterans and active-duty military personnel as symbols of respect and appreciation. Other recycling programs exist on the local level, such as recycling centers and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.

Recycling flags offers the added benefit of reducing waste, and environmental harm. It’s a win-win situation for both the environment and the legacy of the American flag.

Donating old flags to organizations that can use them

Some organizations, such as Boy Scouts or Veterans of Foreign Wars, will gladly accept old flags as donations. These organizations use the flags to perform ceremonies or as decorations for events and activities.

When donating a flag to an organization, it’s important to ensure that the organization is properly equipped to handle the flag with respect and dignity. Donating an old flag to an organization is a meaningful and emotionally significant way to pass on the flag’s legacy to future generations.

DIY projects using old American flags

With a little creativity, old American flags can be transformed into beautiful, meaningful DIY projects. For example, an old American flag can be made into a table runner, a pillow cover, or a piece of artwork.

Creating a DIY project from an old flag provides a sense of pride and satisfaction, as well as a chance to repurpose and continue the legacy of the flag in a new way.

The consequences of improper flag disposal

Improper flag disposal such as throwing out or neglecting flags can have unfortunate consequences. Improperly disposing of a flag can show disrespect to the meaning behind the flag and the ideals it represents. it is important to dispose of American flags in a respectful manner to maintain their symbolic importance and the honor they deserve.


Disposing of an American flag may seem like a daunting task, but there are many respectful and dignified ways to properly retire an old flag. By burning it in a respectful ceremony, recycling it through specialized programs, donating it to organizations, or even upcycling it through DIY projects, the meaning and legacy of the American flag can be preserved and maintained. As Americans, we should honor our nation’s flag and be responsible for ensuring its proper disposal.

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