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What To Do with Old Flags – Repurpose Guide

Many people collect flags in order to show their support for a cause or organization.

Some people just like the idea of having a flag representing them and where they live or their country.

However, no matter how much someone loves their old flags, they may want to think about what to do with them once it’s time for their sun to set.

There are many options available when it comes to disposing of a worn-out flag but it has to be in a respectful and dignified manner.

It’s important to understand that the flag should be treated with respect even while it is being retired.

Proper etiquette on retiring an old flag

No matter what type of flag is being disposed of, it should be folded in a particular way that shows respect for the nation or organization that it represents and for those who fought for them.

Many people choose to fold their flags into a triangle with the blue field facing up or with the stars facing up and the strip of red going across the top of the flag. When folding an American flag it’s recommended that you do so using the triangular method. Folding a flag is a sacred act and should be done with care and respect.

You cannot repurpose a flag into something else such as clothing or decorations.

This is because these flags have been imbued with meaning and significance that goes beyond the mere flag itself.

They don’t just carry the history and heritage of a country but also the stories of the brave men and women who fought and died for their country.

Once it’s time to retire the flag you want to make sure you destroy it in a dignified manner.

Many people choose to burn the flag in an open area with lots of ventilation and safety precautions taken. Environmental agencies or even fire departments may be able to dispose of the flag for you.

Don’t throw your flag into the trash as it’s extremely disrespectful and shows a lack of respect for the flag and everything that it represents.

What to do with old flags

After several seasons of displaying your flag, it might get tattered or faded. This may be the right time to respectfully dispose of the old flag and get a new one.

But how do you go about doing so?

There are many options available.

Some of these options are discussed in detail right here.

Drop it off

Flags are typically left outside in the hot sun, wind, and rain.

They can also be left in front of the house in a garage, or shed or pushed out into the yard to be flown on a sunny day.

This means they’ll start to get tattered, faded, and dirty.

When this happens, it’s a good idea to replace it with another one.

The problem is that not everyone knows how to dispose of their old flag and some will simply put it in the trash.

The best place to check for a flag disposal service is at the local VFW or American Legion post.

These are veteran and military organizations that have probably done this before.

They can also provide you with information about the proper way to dispose of your flag and what it symbolizes.

Most of the time, you’ll find flag disposal boxes placed outside the buildings of these organizations as well as the state government offices.

They collect the worn-out flags and dispose of them in a respectful and dignified manner.

To find the location of your local VFW or Legion post, you can do an internet search for veterans’ organizations in your area.

Take part in a flag retirement ceremony

Whether it’s the American flag or any other national flag, they are symbols of the country and should be treated with respect and dignity.

Some organizations such as the American Legion and the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts hold annual flag retirement ceremonies.

In these ceremonies, the veterans and members of the organization take part in a flag retirement ritual.

This ceremony occurs on the 14th of June every year and it’s considered the most suitable day to conduct flag disposal ceremonies.

Participants stand in two parallel rows in front of a small fire pit.

They drum and sing as they raise the flag upwards in a ceremony known as a “topping off.” Participants also take part in a pledge to the country, which includes honoring it as a symbol of love, hope, respect, and patriotism.

After that unserviceable brought forward to be discarded are inspected by the Legion commanders.

The fire pit is then set on fire and the flags are lowered into it as participants salute.

It’s a somber and respectful event that every military veteran as well as civilians should take part in at least once in his or her lifetime.

Burn it yourself

In case you don’t make it to one of those pomp flag retirement ceremonies, another option would be to burn it yourself.

Of course, it’s recommended to only burn flags made of natural fabrics.

Never burn nylon, polyester or synthetic materials as these release toxic fumes and pose a serious health risk to people around you.

Burning flags is not as common as it was in the past, but some folk still choose to do it.

If you are going to do this, make sure you take all the proper safety precautions.

Set up a fire pit in your backyard or somewhere safe that has good ventilation and no chance of fire spreading to other buildings or homes nearby.

You must also protect yourself from flying sparks with goggles, gloves, and long-sleeved clothing.

First, fold it in a customary manner, then salute and recite the pledge of Allegiance or hold a minute of silence.

Next, burn the flag methodically from one end to the other in a dignified manner.

When you’re satisfied that it’s completely consumed, extinguish the fire and dispose of the ashes.

While doing this, conform to the state fire codes and environmental regulations.

Bury it

Another option is to bury it.

Flags are made of a fabric that can decompose and break down over time.

Therefore, it’s recommended that it be buried so decomposition can do its work and break down.

Additionally, you don’t have to go far to bury a worn-out flag.

Just bury it at home in a dignified box.

You will have to fold the flag carefully first before putting it in the box.

Then, you can bury it or have a symbolic ceremony with friends and family to honor the flag.

You could even say a prayer while you’re at it to give thanks to all those who have served and continue to serve their country by protecting its citizens.

If you have several flags that are worn out and need to be retired, it may be best to keep them all in one place before burying them.

This will simplify the burial process and make sure everything is done in an orderly manner.

Donate it

Some flags are still in a decent enough state to be reused.

If you are in possession of a flag that is not completely worn out, please consider donating it for reuse.

The national cemetery, local funeral homes, and organizations such as the American Legion, Stars for Our Troops, and Boy Scout Troop might be willing to take your old flags.

Contact the local American Legion post or VFW and ask them if they are in need of a good old American flag.

They may need one or two for use in their ceremonies and parades, or to help out with fundraising events.

Flags are imbued with personal meaning to veterans due to their service and sacrifice.

You can also donate them to your local high school, middle school, or elementary school as well as local Scouting units and Girl Scout troops.

Take old flags to a textile recycler

If you still have old American flags that are used and worn out, consider taking them to a textile recycler or flag manufacturer.

These businesses collect used or aged fabrics and transform them into new products such as carpets, drapery, rugs, and banners.

You may have to take a drive or make several phone calls to find the nearest textile recycler in your area.

If you don’t find one, try a search on the internet through Google Maps for textile recycling locations in your state.

If you’re looking for a flag manufacturer, you can use the same process to find them too.

Once you’ve found the address, contact information, and opening hours for these businesses, make an appointment in advance to drop off your old flags.

You can make an appointment by calling them or visiting them in person.

It’s recommended that when visiting a textile recycler or flag manufacturer, you call ahead and inform them of your plans.

This way they can receive your old flags with open arms rather than reject them due to the outdated nature of the fabric.

Let them know when you will be dropping them off as well as any questions that you may have about the company or flag manufacturing process.

Final Thoughts

If you are in possession of an old American flag that is no longer usable, consider donating it to a textile recycler or flag manufacturer.

They will gladly reuse your old personal and patriotic symbol to produce new products that have the same meaning as the one that you once held dear. Otherwise dispose of it in an environmentally safe manner by burning it, burying it or donating it.


Do fire stations take old flags?

Many fire stations across America accept old flags if the owners are willing to bring them in.

However, some fire stations require flag owners make an appointment ahead of time.

Where are the flag disposal boxes?

You can find flag disposal boxes outside the buildings of state and government offices.

They’re also found at the American Legion posts and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).


  • Jen Wheeler

    Jen Wheeler, co-founder of Recycling-Revolution.com, holds degrees from UC Berkeley, Yale, and Stanford. A renowned environmentalist, she's championed sustainable practices at global events and leads EcoBright Solutions, focusing on recycling education and eco-friendly products.

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