Is it Illegal to Throw Away the American Flag?

If your American flag is approaching the end of its life, you might be wondering if it’s illegal to throw it away. The United States Flag Code contains a set of rules that govern the way in which the American Flag should be handled. While compliance isn’t enforced, it’s an official federal law to which all Americans should adhere. So, does the Flag Code allow for disposal of American flags?

No, It’s Not Illegal to Throw Away the American Flag

Neither the Flag Code nor any other piece of legislation prohibits the disposal of the American flag. With that said, you shouldn’t toss your American flag in the trashcan just because you don’t want it anymore. Unless it’s heavily soiled or damaged, you should keep it.

The only time you should dispose of your American flag is when it’s heavily soiled or damaged. In instances such as these, the American flag is no longer in a condition to display. As a result, heavily soiled or damaged American flags should be retired.

Why You Should Burn It Instead of Throwing It Away

Rather than throwing away your heavily soiled or damaged American flag, consider burning it. According to the Flag Code, “The Flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”

There’s a wrong way and a right to burn a tattered American flag. Don’t just place it your fire pit and toss a match on it. Instead, consider holding a ceremony in which you respectfully fold the American flag and place it into a burning fire.

How to Extend the Lifespan of Your American Flag

You can make your American flag last longer by following a few simple steps. First, make sure that no portion of the flag touches the ground. If the front of your American flag touches the ground — or any other surface below it — the fabric will degrade more quickly.

In addition to elevating your American flag off the ground, you can extend its lifespan by removing it during severe weather. Even if you normally display your American flag all seven days a week, it’s probably a good idea to take it down during bad weather. Heavy rainfall and strong winds can stress your American flag, potentially ripping and permanently damaging it. As long as you remove your American flag during severe weather, though, it shouldn’t succumb to premature wear and tear.

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