Destroying Worn-Out Flags

Under Title 4, Chapter1, § 8, paragraph k of the US Code (often referred to as the Flag Code) 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 Scouts and Scouters, we recognize the responsibility we have to treat our country's symbols, such as the flag, with respect and dignity, but what about our responsibility to protect the environment and the world in which we live? Isn't that part of being a good citizen too?

This is a question that comes up frequently when we talk about how to retire worn and tattered flags made from nylon, coated with certain flame retardants or possess any number of other attributes that would produce noxious and/or harmful fumes or residue if burned.

The answer isn't really all that difficult if we re-read the flag code. We simply need to ask ourselves if the manner in which we are retiring (destroying) the flag is dignified. If the answer is yes, then that method is perfectly acceptable. One option might be to conduct a retirement ceremony and then deliver (or mail) the flag to a facility that recycles nylon. Maybe you could even contact the local landfill about dedicating a portion of their facility specifically for this purpose. Use your imagination, and remember that while burning may be the preferred method, it is not the only method. That's especially important when retiring a flag made from less eco-friendly materials. Respect for our flag and respect for the environment need not be mutually exclusive.