Quick Recycling Tip: How to Recycle Old Flags

In Recycling, Uncategorized by Matty Byloos1 Comment

This post is part of an attempt to do something like 100 recycling tips for damn near anything in something close to, anyway, 100 days. We’ll see how that goes. When the 100 Recycling Tips are all published here on Easy Ways to Go Green, we’ll do a master list so that every link exists on one single page for everyone to be able to link over to, or to use as a reference guide when questions on how to recycle different things in your life inevitably come up.

How to Recycle 100 Common Things: #29 Recycling Old Flags

How to Recycle Old FlagsThis is a post that might offend true patriots, but let’s not let that get in the way of practical issues that are definitely at hand. Labor Day, Memorial Day, D-Day, 4th of July, Veteran’s Day — there are plenty of reasons to fly the American Flag in honor of the country’s history and or whatever else, and that means, they’re going up outside. American flags and other historic flags go up the flag pole all the time, and out into the harsh weather.

Sure, you take them down when it rains. Or maybe you don’t. And you surely don’t mind the sun beating down on them all day. And you must love to watch them flapping in the gorgeous American breeze. And all that weather? It will certainly do some damage. American flags don’t last forever, no matter who makes them or how well they’re sewn together. So what do we do with them? Throw them in the trash?

Plastic or cloth is part of the issue, but either way, aren’t those materials suitable for the recycling bin? For those of you looking for the definitive answer from the patriot’s perspective, here it is (from the USA Flag site on proper flag disposal): The only definitive answer is found in the US Flag Code. TITLE 4 > CHAPTER 1 > Sec. 8(k). It states: “The 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.” As noted, all Patriotic issues aside, we need answers to this question: Can flags be recycled when it’s time to retire them?

Aside from the purely material element here, it seems that there are plenty of online services and companies who specialize in the proper treatment of worn and tattered flags, which I suppose is a kind of recycling in and of itself. There are a number of links to those sites below. All in all, the patriotic thing to do with the old American flag is to burn it. However, it is ok to also bury it, which leads me to believe that composting is a form of “burial” — so would this work? If we’re talking about other kinds of flags, the tattered and irreparable cloth kind should definitely be composted for a version of “sustainable” disposal. Further, because the majority of American flags are made of nylon or other petroleum-based materials, these synthetic materials can last a long time in landfills, or introduce toxic chemicals into the atmosphere when burned. So why not consider recycling your American flag, country flag, or military flags?

Helpful Links on Recycling Old Flags:

Search by “Cloth Flags” or “Flags” and “Your City Name or Zip Code” at Earth 911 and find the closest recycling center near you.

Check out this piece on Recycle This UK! about Recycling Old Flags.

Here’s information on Flag Keepers about proper disposal and recycling of old flags.

Information from American Flag Disposal on proper disposal of the flag: burning or burying, where they note: “a new nylon recycling process has been discovered that converts virtually 100% of a nylon flag back into virgin grade nylon material which can be made into new” American flags.

How to recycle old flags from Recycle Scene.

Recycling old American Flags on the Examiner online.

Garden House Flags on a Recycled Flag Program.


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