For boaters, marine flares are indispensable – in fact, federal law requires the majority of vessels to carry working flares at all times. When in distress, marine flares provide a simple yet effective way to signal for help. To ensure your safety, the United States Coast Guard mandates that marine flares be replaced every three boating seasons – to be exact, they expire 42 months after the date of manufacture. If you happen to have expired marine flares on your boat, a few options for disposal do exist.
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary recommends a few options for disposing of expired or unwanted marine flares. First, you can donate the flares to a local Coast Guard Auxiliary squadron or law enforcement agency for use in their training. You can also contact you fire department to inquire about any upcoming community hazardous material collections or burn units. Private firework and pyrotechnic companies many also dispose of marine flares for a small fee. Finally, boating organizations recommend that you keep some expired flares on-board to serve as back-ups in case of an emergency.
Expired hand-held flares can be ignited on land safely away from any flammable material, but you should never light aerial flares outside of an emergency situation – this practice is illegal. You should also never place unused marine flares in the trash as this can cause a fire. Even if you soak the flares first, the contaminated water can pollute the environment. Lastly, throwing unused flares overboard also leads to pollution and can damage fragile ecosystems.
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