Did you know the average outdoor flag lasts only about 90 days? Flying the stars and stripes outside your home is a great way to showcase pride in our county. But the ever-changing weather and the blasting rays of the sun will inevitably result in a worn-out flag.
It is against etiquette to fly one that is worn out. It is also disrespectful to simply throw the American flag out with the trash. So, what should you do with Old Glory after it is too tattered to represent our country?
Because it is important to regularly replace flags that are faded or torn, the United States has a set of laws pertaining to disposal known as the United States Flag Code, or “retiring the flag”.
There are four ways to respectfully retire an American flag:
Donate Tattered Flags
Donating is a great American flag disposal technique. This provides a quick and easy solution for those who are busy and want to make sure their old flags are taken care of properly.
Where to Dispose of American Flags in Fairfax County:
- Fairfax County Government Center – there is a flag disposal box in the main lobby near the information desk – 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax. Collected flags are retired properly by The American Legion.
- I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex – Flag disposal boxes are located at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex and are available during residential hours. Collected flags are retired properly by The American Legion.
- Fairfax County Police Stations – all Fairfax County Police Stations accept American flags. They are collected twice a year by Police Honor Guard for proper disposal.
The US Flag Code states that if the flag is not in good enough condition to represent our country, it should be taken down and destroyed. The dignified manner they recommend is burning. This is the manner of retiring the flag that is used in the military. This method is probably not something most of us would consider using. If you do choose to use this method, you must first check with your local Fire Marshall about what state and local fire codes and ordinances you must follow prior to burning a flag.
There are special steps that must be carried out when using this method of disposal, including folding the flag properly, saluting the flag and observing a moment of silence, or reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while the flag burns.
You can bury a flag in the ground in a well-constructed container to keep it protected. In the US Flag Code, it states the cloth should not come in contact with the ground or dirt. Fold it properly and place it in the box. Take a moment of silence or respectfully say a few words as you bury the box.
Shredding gives you multiple options to either burn, bury, or recycle the material once it is disassembled. But you must do this in a proper and respectful manner, as with all American flag disposal options.
In the first technique, you must separate each of the white and red stripes. The other option is to cut the flag in half vertically, and then again horizontally. The most important step for both procedures is to make sure the blue section with the stars stays intact.
Shredding gives you multiple options to either burn, bury or recycle the material once it is disassembled. Flag recycling is common with synthetic, and nylon made flags because burning these materials can be hazardous.