How do you dispose of a National Flag?

Are there any hard or fast rules for disposing of a used National flag?

Say you have a faded and frayed US Flag and you want to get a new one, how are you supposed to dispose of the old flag? Does it vary by country?

I ask because a guy told me you were “allowed” to burn an used US flag if it was old and frayed. I find this pretty hard to belive.

Can anyone help me out?


From the U.S. Code:

A quick Google search turned this up.

Outside the public library in my town, The American Legion or VFW has an old mailbox where anybody can deposit their old flags. They ensure that they’re disposed of properly.

I gave my father a replacement Australian flag a couple of months ago because his previous one had become a bit tattered. We cut the old one up into pieces and burnt them.

Mail it to the Republican National Committee.
They hate flag burning, so let them figure it out. :dubious:

It’s a piece of colored cloth. Toss it in the garbage can.

And here I thought this was GQ.

As mentioned above, the American Legion and VFW have flag disposal ceremonies in which they burn used flags. I would imagine that other nations have similar organizations.

Bosda, there’s a difference between dignified disposal and desecration. It’s the difference between cremation of a corpse and the burning of a corpse to abuse it. I’m sure you knew that, though, so I have to ask: why did you feel the need to make such a stupid comment in GQ?

Moderator’s Note: You have been warned before about gratuitous political potshots in General Questions.

You have also been warned for Pit rants in GQ, warned for insults in GQ and warned in the Pit. You are getting on thin ice, and you need to change your behavior or you will face banning from the SDMB.

This is a GQ thread about “hard and fast rules” concerning the disposal of flags. Whatever your opinion about the silliness or appropriateness of those rules and customer may be, this forum isn’t the place for opinions or debates.

MEBuckner, there are no “hard and fast” rules regarding the disposal of a U.S. flag. While the Flag Code discusses the “proper” way to dispose of such an item, the Flag Code is not mandatory and there are no penalties associated with ignoring its provisions. Patty’s answer was no less hard and fast than yours. It was certinaly no less correct, even though Congress has expressed a different preference. But put simply, there is no definite answer to the question that does not itself demand a predisposition on whether the flag deserves “respect” or not.

The ideal answer would have presented the preferred method from the Flag Code and then noted that there are no (legal) consequences to refusing to follow it and that it is a matter of choice as to whether to treat this cloth differently than other cloths one wishes to dispose of.


What Cliffy said. Indeed, currently the First Amendment arguably protects anyone either burning or throwing away a flag; while there may be guidelines relating to flag disposal, they are not requirements.

To the OP – your location indicates you are in Canada. Is your question whether Canadian law requires you to dispose of another country’s flag in a certain way, or are you asking how to dispose of it properly out of respect for the country represented by the flag? If the former, I don’t know.

If the latter, however, I would suggest that you treat it as you would your own country’s flag. As has been suggested, any local veterans group should be able to guide you, or your local police station. The police, like the military, take flags seriously and may be able to help you find a way to dispose of the flag respectfully.

Check by your local Post Office, as well, for a flag disposal mailbox. The one at the Post Office I frequent is handled by a local Marine Corps League.

I’ll suggest something I’ve got for a my flag: Retire it.

The Story: When I was in Kuwait during 9/11, my Congresswoman’s office sent my mother a flag to send to me (she works with their office quite a bit). I’ve made it my point to take this 3’x5’ flag everywhere I go, fly it as much as I can, and document it. So far, she’s flown over Iraq for SOUTHERN WATCH, reenlisted 14 guys to date, dropped bombs from a B-52 over Afghanistan, been unfolded in salute over Ground Zero in Manhattan, and has stood guard over Minot AFB and Al Udeid AB, Qatar, and other places. . .

The Point: Over time, I’ve had to take her to a seamstress to get fixed and cleaned, but I’ve always carried her with me. She’s the only thing that I still do carry from the beginning of my career . . . I also have a neighbor in his 80s, who flew P-38s in WWII. I swore to myself that should my colors become ‘unfit’, I’d get them repaired as best I could, and present 'em to Dave.

My point? If you can find a veteran that would be proud to have Ol’ Glory been so far as she has, present her to him/her. Get her fixed up and cleaned as best you can, and offer them for “retirement” to someone that can take care of them for posterity, and the honor of memories.

Just my plans, and my two cents.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with pointing out that the customary rules of flag etiquette are not enforceable by law in the U.S., and I probably should have mentioned it in my first post. However, if someone posts to ask what are the words of all four verses of the Star-Spangled Banner, just because it’s not illegal to make up your own words or write a parody version bashing George W. Bush (or Bill Clinton, if you prefer) doesn’t make the GQ thread “What are the words to all the verses of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’?” the place for everyone to opine that it’s idiotic to sing the national anthem at sporting events and the “Star-Spangled Banner” is a song only an imperialist warmonger could love and it’s too hard to sing and anyway “America the Beautiful” is much prettier.

(I see on preview that many of the points I make below have been made by others already. Here’s my two cents, anyway.)

Although IANAL, I wanted to point out that the U.S. Flag code, although it is in the U.S. Code, does not have the force of law, i.e. you cannot be arrested for violating its rules. (Which is a good thing for Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who recently appeared in public wearing a flag shirt remarkably similar to one that got Abbie Hoffman arrested in 1968. )

Also, the Supreme Court has invalidated as unconstutional all state laws that outlawed burning of the flag as a protest.

I’m always a little cheesed off by people who believe they’re being patriotic by displaying the flag in ways that are disrespectful (and violate the flag code), like on clothes, at night (without a light), or in the rain.

BTW, the link in MEBuckner’s post is not the entire code. Click on “Chapter 1” at the top of that page.

Mostly useless factoid: the official ratio of the height of the flag to its width is 1 to 1.9.

Some further references relating to Australian flags that suggest disposal either by:

The second link warns against burning since flags are often made of polyester and can give off toxic fumes when burnt.

From the Department of Canadian Heritage Rules for Flying the Flag

As far as I know, these are simply guidelines, not having the force of law.

Burning the flag is fine as long as it’s not being done as a political protest. Context is the key.

Don’t stand on the steps of the courthouse and shout obscenities and curses while you’re buring the flag, and you’ll be OK. Do it your back yard, or the fireplace in your living room, or someplace private like that. Ideally, the flag should be burned in a respectful manner; don’t just wad it up and toss it on the fire like it was an old newspaper.

Diceman, I assume that you are saying, in response to the OP, that if one merely wishes to dispose of a worn flag it would be unwise to do so in a fashion that would appear to be a political protest. And that you are not saying that people shouldn’t engage in political protest when they feel it is appropriate. (That position would be unpatriotic.)