What do you do with expired flares?

by Tim on August 16, 2012

This story by Deborah Bach over at Three Sheets Northwest got me thinking. What do talented Navagear readers suggest we do with our expired flares? Have at it in the comments!

U.S. Coast Guard rules clearly require that commercial and recreational boats carry flares on most waterways.But how boaters should legally dispose of expired flares is a much murkier issue, as one Seattle couple recently discovered.

Heidi and Kirk Hackler, who live aboard their sailboat, were cleaning out their house to put it on the market and discovered a milk crate full of expired flares in their garage.

Heidi searched online but couldn’t find a solution. The Coast Guard doesn’t accept expired flares, nor does the King County hazardous waste program or the Seattle Police Department’s Harbor Patrol Unit.

Hackler tried taking the flares to a transfer station but was turned away. She went to Fisheries Supply but couldn’t get an answer. Frustrated, she drove to the nearest fire station. The supervisor there, she said, told her they normally don’t accept flares but would take them off her hands.

But Hackler wonders where that leaves other boaters with expired flares.

“I think it’s a huge, huge problem,” she said. “Everyone has to have flares, even small boats. Are people just throwing [expired flares] in the garbage, or what do they do with them?”

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Capn Chuck August 20, 2012 at 5:29 pm

We’ve had good lick disposing of flares in a couple of ways. The Coast Guard Auxiliary will often have flare demonstrations and will take your outdated ones. The police department won’t take them unless they have a Bomb Squad and they will sometimes take them for training. In almost every case we have been able to give them to the Fire Department. Not a local Volunteer unit, but a full time paid Fire Station. If one says no, go to the next. Chuck

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Ian September 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Its a problem in Canada too, and it is dum!
Transport Canada and Canada Coast Guard will only ok white flare for demo purposes, but there are very few white flares available in a format the boater would use.

No one will pick up old flares, and if you have been determined to have been storing or transporting old flares – you could be charged with…..go figure, eh?

Last I have heard, March 2012, a marine store in Nanaimo, BC had some arrangment to take old flares if you purchased new ones.

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Dillon Z. Clarke February 5, 2013 at 2:02 pm

I have some old expired flares that I want to dump. Does anyone know the proper way to dispose of them? Thanks.

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Edward Bennett Reiss February 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm

West Marine accepted my old flares last year.

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Peter March 17, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Use them for practice. It is amazing at how many people have never fired a flare gun or lit a handheld flare. An emergency is not the time to learn! Local yacht clubs, coast guard aux, or other organizations will occasionally put on a demo where you can donate your old flares and then shoot them off. You have to notify the local coast guard and I would recommend you also notify the local sheriff’s office/fire station and tell them you will be holding flare practice at (location) at (time) tonight. That way the 911 calls will not cause problems.

Also, just because the flares are old does not mean they will not work! They are very serviceable. You can keep them on your boat but they can not be intermixed with your emergency equipment; e.g., store them in another location. It would be a shame if you needed help and ran out of flares. Just don’t rely on them.

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