If improper disposal of expired flares causes water contamination, how many flares are disposed of properly? Flares expire every three years. Thirty million flares will expire in the next three years and, of that amount, only 9% are disposed of properly. In research provided by John Adriany, Principle Scientist with Chemetrics, it has been determined that most flares end up in household trash, at the bottom of the ocean or are illegally set off.
Why is that? Because it is really hard to dispose of flares “properly.” I did a Google search for flare disposal locations and couldn’t find any where that gave a tangible location for legal flare disposal. I even checked the official USCG and USCG Auxiliary sites, as well as the websites of various flare manufacturers. The public is told that the three legal ways to dispose of flares are to donate them to local law enforcement for training, drop them off at commercial hazardous waste facilities, or legally set them off.
Finding local law enforcement agencies that take flares is very hit and miss.
As stated in an USCG Auxiliary Annapolis area article, “There are no Federal or State Government entities that accept aerial flares and they do not have any suggestions on what to do with them.” Fortunately for Annapolis, Maryland residents, the local fire department will accept expired flares, but this is not the case for very many boating communities.
I did a search on the hazardous waste facilities sites as well as the EPA’s site and other private organizations. None of these sites are geared toward the individual who is trying to find a place to unload a box of expired flares. It’s almost impossible to figure out where these facilities are located.
I found this 2016 article on the USCG Auxiliary website:
Disposal of Unwanted/Outdated Pyrotechnic Devices
“Auxiliarists are sometimes asked to accept out-of-date or otherwise unwanted pyrotechnic devices for disposal. Accepting such materials for disposal is not an authorized mission for the Auxiliary and may result in individual Auxiliarists taking possession of unstable and hazardous materials and becoming personally responsible for their disposal.
Although some municipal and volunteer fire departments or law enforcement agencies may accept pyrotechnics for disposal, many will not. Disposal may pose potential health or safety hazards to the individual or to the environment.
If, as a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, you are requested to take possession of such materials for disposal, the request must be respectfully declined. The only appropriate advice that may be given with respect to disposing of the unwanted materials is to caution against throwing them overboard, activating them in the marine environment, or disposing of them in household trash.
It would be appropriate to suggest that the individual contact local law enforcement or fire protection authorities for guidance on disposing of the unwanted materials. Members should not recommend that they be activated on land or retained on board a vessel as back-ups since older flares may become unstable and their burn rates unpredictable.”
As you can see, the issue of legal flare disposal is not easy. To help the many boaters looking to do the right thing by disposing of expired flares legally, Weems & Plath would like to compile a list of disposal locations around the country that accept flares.
Please email Weems & Plath at firstname.lastname@example.org with information about hazmat or law enforcement locations that you know accept flares. Let’s work together to solve this problem.
Written by Cathie Trogdon