How To Get Rid Of Worn Out American Flag

How To Get Rid Of Worn Out American Flag

Honoring the Symbol of Freedom: Proper Disposal of Worn American Flags

The American flag, a beacon of liberty and symbol of national pride, deserves to be treated with the utmost respect. When it has served its purpose and is no longer fit to fly, it is essential to dispose of it in a dignified and respectful manner. This article will guide you through the proper steps to properly retire a worn American flag, ensuring that its legacy as a symbol of our nation is preserved.

1. Understanding the Importance of Proper Disposal

The American flag is not just a piece of cloth; it is a representation of the ideals and values upon which our nation was founded. As such, it deserves to be treated with the same reverence and respect we accord to any other national symbol. Improper disposal of a worn flag shows disrespect to our history, our country, and the countless men and women who have fought and died under its banner.

2. Identifying Worn Flags

Over time, flags can become worn and faded due to exposure to the elements, such as sunlight, rain, and wind. When a flag is no longer in good condition, it should be retired. Signs of wear include:

  • Faded colors
  • Fraying edges
  • Tears or holes
  • Separation of stripes or stars

3. The Dignified Retirement Process

There are several methods for properly retiring a worn American flag. The most common and widely accepted method is through local organizations. These organizations, such as the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), or Boy Scouts of America, have procedures in place to collect and dispose of flags with dignity.

Contact Local Organizations:

  • Reach out to the nearest American Legion, VFW, or Boy Scout troop and inquire about their flag retirement services.
  • Usually, there are drop-off boxes or specific collection events organized by these organizations.

Community Bonfires:

  • In some communities, organized bonfires are held specifically for the purpose of retiring flags.
  • Consult local newspapers or community centers for information about scheduled bonfire events.

Burial or Cremation:

  • Some people choose to bury or cremate their worn flags.
  • Ensure that the flag is folded in the traditional triangular shape and placed in a suitable container before burial or cremation.

4. Traditional Flag Folding Ceremony

Before retiring a worn flag, it is customary to perform the traditional flag folding ceremony. This ceremony symbolizes the respect and gratitude we have for the flag and the nation it represents.

  • Fold the flag lengthwise, bringing the stripes together.
  • Fold the flag lengthwise again, placing the blue field with the stars over the stripes.
  • Continue folding the flag into a triangular shape, making sure the blue field remains on top.
  • The final folded flag should be a neat and compact triangle.

5. Respectful Disposal

Once the flag has been folded, it should be placed in a respectful manner at the designated collection point or disposed of according to the instructions provided by the organization.

Collection Boxes:

  • Drop the folded flag into the collection box provided by the organization.


  • At community bonfires, the folded flags are usually collected and burned together in a respectful and dignified manner.

Burial or Cremation:

  • If burying or cremating the flag, place it in a suitable container and proceed with the burial or cremation process.

6. Alternatives to Physical Disposal

In some cases, it may not be possible to physically retire a worn flag. In such situations, there are alternative options to honorably dispose of it:

Flag Burning on Private Property:

  • If local regulations permit, you can burn the flag on private property.
  • Ensure that the flag is burned completely and the ashes are disposed of respectfully.

Virtual Flag Retirement:

  • Some organizations offer virtual flag retirement services.
  • This involves uploading a digital image of the flag, and the organization will digitally retire it and issue a certificate of retirement.


1. What should I do if I find a discarded flag on the ground?

  • Pick up the flag with respect and dispose of it properly by contacting a local organization or using one of the methods described in this article.

2. Can I recycle an American flag?

  • The American flag is not recyclable. It should be disposed of properly as described in this article.

3. Is it legal to burn an American flag?

  • The Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag is a form of protected speech under the First Amendment. However, local regulations may restrict flag burning in certain areas.

4. What happens to the retired flags collected by organizations?

  • Collected flags are usually burned in a respectful manner or buried in a dedicated flag retirement facility.


Retiring a worn American flag is an act of respect and gratitude for the symbol of our nation. By following the proper disposal procedures outlined in this article, we can ensure that the American flag is treated with the dignity it deserves. Let us all strive to preserve the legacy of our flag and honor the sacrifices made by those who have served under its banner.


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