Many people use road flares in the US for emergencies, such as vehicle collisions, accidents, and car breakdowns.
First responders use them due to their ease-of-use, self-illuminating nature, and bright, unwavering signal.
However, despite their widespread use, not many people know how to dispose of old flares properly. Since they are flammable, you must learn about responsible road flare disposals.
So, without any ado, let’s explore how to discard old road flares safely and responsibly!
How to Dispose of Road Flares
If you have unused road flares, you can’t set them off in a non-emergency situation as it’s against the law.
Plus, since flares are a fire risk, you can’t dispose of them irresponsibly.
Unfortunately, there’s no countrywide standardized requirement for the disposal of road flares.
With that said, some local organizations and facilities can take the flares off your hands for proper disposal.
Here are some ways in which you can dispose of or recycle old road flares:
Get in Touch with Your Household Hazardous Waste Disposal Service
The easiest and safest way to dispose of road flares is to contact a household hazardous waste facility.
Your first step should be to perform a quick online search to figure out if your state or county laws allow its citizens to dispose of flares as household hazardous waste.
It’s because many states don’t consider flares to be a household hazardous waste as they pose a fire risk.
If your state doesn’t have any such laws, get in touch with your local household hazardous waste disposal service.
You can also find out more about them from your local municipal department’s administrative team.
Ask the facility if they provide house calls to pick up old flares or offer any curbside collection service.
If they don’t, you can ask them for the drop-off site for household hazardous waste. Then, you can pack the flares safely and drop them off at the site for proper disposal.
Contact the Manufacturer
If your local law does not consider road flares to be household hazardous waste, you must take another disposal route. Try to get a hold of the manufacture of your road flares.
Once you get in touch with them, ask about the safest and most reliable disposal method.
The chances are that they will guide you on how to dispose of old road flares properly while ensuring that you don’t break any state laws.
Contact the Local First Responder Services
If the household hazardous waste disposal service in your community does not offer road flare disposal, you can give them to the police.
Contact your local police department and ask them if they take old road flares. Most police departments accept unwanted fireworks, firearms, and ammunition.
It’s highly likely that they might also accept road flares.
Alternatively, you can reach out to your local fire department and ask them if they want your road flares.
Chances of them taking the flares off your hands will be higher if the flares haven’t expired yet.
As for any boat flares that you might have lying around, you can give them to a coast guard station.
Contact your local coast guard station to find out if they have a flare disposal program. Ask how if they can take your old flares or if you can drop off the flares at the station.
Keep Them in Your Car as a Backup
It might not be the ideal solution, but you can keep expired flares in your car or boat as a backup option.
After all, it’s not against the law to use expired road flares. However, people don’t use them as they are less likely to produce light when you need them in emergencies.
But you can still keep them and use them in emergencies when you run out of non-expired flares.
Why You Should Not Throw Road Flares in the Garbage
As a rule of thumb, you should never dispose of road flares by throwing them in the garbage.
Not even if you soak them in water overnight.
It’s because the protective coating or shells of road flares is water-resistant. It means that the dangerous chemicals in the flare will remain active and flammable.
Throwing road flares in the garbage will create a fire and health hazard.
It will also create an environmental hazard as the flares contain highly toxic chemicals, such as perchlorate. It’s why you must follow proper disposal methods to get rid of old road flares.
Do Road Flares Expire?
Federal law requires all pyrotechnic devices to be labeled and marked. It includes adding an expiration date to them.
When it comes to flares, the rule for the expiration date is that manufacturers must not set it more than 42 months from the date of manufacture.
This rule exists even though flares technically don’t expire. The expiry date is there so that you think twice before using old flares.
It also exists so that people feel compelled to inspect their road flares time and again to ensure that they are in top condition. After all, flares can catch rust and get damaged.
The expiry date is there to ensure that you don’t keep decade’s old flares in your car trunk. It’s because old flares have a high likelihood of accidentally going off.
Due to their age and improper storage, it’s likely that old flares start deteriorating or that their casing develops cracks.
When that happens, they can easily go off, making them extreme fire hazards.
With that said, road flares tend to outlive the expiration date mentioned on their casing. It’s especially true if you store them properly.
However, that doesn’t mean that you keep them in place of new flares. But you can still try to use them if they appear to be undamaged.
Just make sure to keep them in a separate container. Label the container as “expired flares.”
This way, you will not confuse them with your newer flares while having a backup option. You will also prevent them from going off and damaging anything in their vicinity.
Handy Tips for Storing Road Flares Safely
Here are some safety tips that you must remember when storing road flares in your vehicle:
- Always store road flares with their plastic cap and removable lid securely in place.
- Put them in their original cardboard box. If the box gets damaged, put them in a container with a secure lid.
- Don’t store road flares in a way that the striker ends and ignition buttons face each other.
- If you’re using a storage tray, pout the flares in a compartment separate from other items.
- If your storage compartment is longer than the road flares, make sure to put cushioning material in the extra space. Using materials such as wood and cardboard can prevent movement and accidental activation of the flare.
- Don’t store the flares near the radio or any other electrical system that poses a fire hazard.
- Regularly inspect the flare storage compartment to make sure that all the flares are securely capped.
- Always clean any flare residue from the storage container or compartment to prevent fire hazards.
- Do not put any extinguished flare bodies, wire stands, or used striker caps with your new road flares.
- Store the road flares in a dry place, away from heat, sunlight, and incompatible materials.
- Keep them away from flammable materials and sources of flames and sparks.
- Don’t put partly burned flares in your vehicle. It’s a significant fire hazard.
Safety Tips to Remember When Using Road Flares
Since flares are flammable items, you should use them carefully.
Here are a few tips that you should remember when using flares to ensure your and your environment’s safety:
- When removing the cap to strike the flare, you need to make sure that you hit the proper side of the flare. This way, it will act as a match striking a matchbox and ignite the flare immediately.
- After lighting the road flare, you should hold it with its bright side pointed down and away from your body. You must never carry the flare with the bright side up. Otherwise, you run the risk of your clothes catching fire thanks to the smoldering embers dropping from the flare.
- You must put the lit road flares on a flat surface. Position them in a way that the flare does not roll after being put on the ground.
- Don’t put a road flare near the scene of the accident or around combustible materials, such as flammable liquids or grass. The embers of the flare can start a fire.
- Once you no longer need the flare, you should put it out before you leave the scene of the accident or emergency. It’s because an unattended flare poses a fire risk. The easiest way to put out a road flare is to tap the flare’s flame end on the road. It should break apart the flare, which will ensure that it stops burning.
The Bottom Line
Road flares are a safety and fire hazard, which is why you need to dispose of them properly.
The best way to dispose of old or expired road flares is to contact your local household hazardous waste facility for responsible disposal.
You can also get in touch with the manufacturer to figure out how to dispose of old flares safely.
Alternatively, you can reach out to the first responder services in your area to find out if they take old, usable flares.
You can also keep them with you in a marked box in case of emergencies.
Additionally, you must make sure that you store your road flares safely and responsibly to prevent any accidents. When using them, do so responsibly to protect yourself and the environment.
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