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How To Properly Dispose of Your Old Flags

Brett Blume
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -  It’s Flag Day, the perfect time for this reminder from Waste Management of St. Louis:

As we commemorate this Flag Day, more and more American flags are appearing at homes, businesses and organizations across the area.

Flag Day was first established in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, who issued a proclamation marking June 14 each year as Flag Day.

In August 1949, National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.

For many Americans, this is one of the most patriotic times of year and is also a time when old or worn flags are often replaced with new ones.

American flags that have done their duty, whether in combat, flying in front of buildings or marching in parades need to be officially and properly retired, not thrown in the trash when they are no longer needed.

The U.S. Congress has enacted regulations governing American flag disposal, and set penalties for handling flags improperly.

“American flags are a symbol of pride and are recognized around the world as an icon; they should be treated with respect and dignity,” said Carrie Spencer, spokesperson for Waste Management of St. Louis. “We encourage everyone to retire flags according to the U.S. Flag Code.”

The Flag Code, as originally passed by Congress in 1942 and amended over the years, recommends burning old flags in a respectful setting as the preferred means of disposal, though burying a worn flag is also acceptable.

Since many flags are now made from synthetic fibers that can release small amounts of toxic fumes when burned, some flag advocates recommend bringing them to a crematorium rather than burning them in the open air.

Many community and veterans groups such as the American Legion, VFW and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts collect used flags for retirement.

“Waste Management drivers often see an increase in flags thrown away following major Holidays like Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day,” said Spencer.  “When possible, our drivers save the flags from the waste stream and turn them over to local groups who properly retire them.”

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