No matter where you boat, you will have flares on your boat or you will face a fine. Your flares have an expiration date stamped on the side, dated 42 months after they were made. This means flares can last three full boating seasons. When they've passed their expiration date, you have several choices about what you can do with them. The one thing you can't do is use them as the primary emergency signalling device aboard your boat. Once they expire, you need new flares.
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Give flares that have expired to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. The Coast Guard Auxiliary will use these flares in sanctioned search and rescue exercises. While this recommended by at least one manufacturer, the Coast Guard Auxiliary website says persons with these pyrotechnic devices "should contact their local sanitation, fire or refuse collection departments" for assistance.
Light the handheld flares ashore. Orion Safety Products, maker of flares and other marine safety products, offers this solution. Conduct disposal, according to Orion, "in a safe area, much the same as highway flares would be ignited." Because they are marine flares, triggering the handheld flares ashore will have no boating-related repercussions, but fire and police departments may say otherwise.
Contact the police or fire brigades and request they take the flares. These flares are a hazardous material, because they are explosive. You can't soak them in water, or the water becomes polluted, giving you a non-explosive pollution hazard.
Keep the flares aboard your boat as backup to the flares you have on hand on your boat. The Coast Guard requires you have three day/night distress signalling devices aboard your boat; having extras, even if they are out of date, is not discouraged.
Ask if your community hazardous materials service accepts flares. Many communities host hazardous materials recycling programs annually or semi-annually for materials as diverse as paint, poisons and chemicals.
Tips and warnings
- Don't dispose of flares by firing them from your boat while on the water -- unless it's an emergency.
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