How To Get Rid Of Your American Flag

How To Get Rid Of Your American Flag

A Respectful Farewell: How to Properly Dispose of Your American Flag

The American flag, a symbol of freedom, unity, and national pride, holds a special place in the hearts of Americans. When an American flag has served its purpose, it’s essential to dispose of it respectfully and appropriately. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of proper flag disposal methods, honoring the flag’s legacy and ensuring its dignified retirement.

Understanding the Flag Code

Before discussing disposal methods, it’s crucial to understand the guidance provided by the United States Flag Code. While the Flag Code is not legally enforceable, it serves as a set of guidelines for the proper treatment and display of the American flag.

According to the Flag Code, a 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." While burning is the preferred method, it’s important to note that local ordinances may prohibit open burning.

Choosing the Appropriate Disposal Method

1. Burning

  • Burn the flag in a clean, open area away from buildings and flammable materials.
  • Use a fire-resistant container lined with a non-flammable material, such as a metal bucket or ceramic bowl.
  • Place the flag in the container and light it using a match or lighter.
  • Allow the flag to burn completely, ensuring all remnants are reduced to ash.
  • Scatter the ashes or bury them in a respectful location.

2. Certified Flag Disposal Companies

  • Some organizations, such as the American Legion and VFW, offer certified flag disposal services.
  • These companies provide a dignified and environmentally friendly way to dispose of flags.
  • They collect flags from the public and incinerate them in accordance with Flag Code guidelines.

3. Local Fire Department

  • Contact your local fire department to inquire about flag disposal services.
  • Many fire departments offer flag retirement ceremonies or provide collection points for worn flags.

4. Burying

  • Fold the flag respectfully and place it in a hole dug in the ground.
  • Cover the flag with soil and mark the location with a small stone or flagpole.
  • Burying the flag is a suitable option if burning is not feasible.

Folding the Flag Before Disposal

Before burning or burying an American flag, it should be folded in the traditional triangular shape.

  • Lay the flag flat with the union (star field) facing up.
  • Fold the bottom stripe over the top stripe, covering the stars.
  • Continue folding the flag in triangular folds until you reach the end.
  • The folded flag should resemble a tricorn hat.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can I throw away a worn American flag in the trash?

A: No, the Flag Code explicitly states that a flag should not be discarded in the trash.

Q: Is it disrespectful to burn an American flag?

A: As long as the flag is burned in a respectful and dignified manner, burning is the preferred method of disposal according to the Flag Code.

Q: What if I have a large number of worn flags to dispose of?

A: Contact a certified flag disposal company or reach out to the American Legion or VFW for assistance.

Q: Can I dispose of a flag that is damaged or torn?

A: Yes, even damaged or torn flags should be disposed of respectfully. Fold the flag and use one of the approved disposal methods.

Q: What should I do if I find a discarded American flag?

A: If you find a discarded flag, pick it up and handle it respectfully. Contact your local American Legion or VFW post or the nearest flag disposal facility for proper disposal.


Respecting the American flag means honoring its symbolism and ensuring its dignified disposal. Whether you choose to burn, bury, or utilize a certified disposal service, the key is to handle the flag with the utmost care and respect. By following the guidelines outlined in this guide, you can contribute to the preservation of this cherished national symbol and ensure its legacy continues to inspire generations to come.


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