Title 4, Chapter 1, Section 8(k) of the US Code contains the rules for retiring a flag: “The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem for display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning.”
However, modern nylon flags produce hazardous fumes when burning. Instead the flag can be cut as shown below and then disposed of.
How to cut the flag for retirement:
Following ceremony is slightly adapted from: http://usscouts.org/ceremony/flagret1.asp
Adult Leader: The U.S. flag is more than just some brightly colored cloth.. it is a symbol of our nation.
Scout #1: Seven red stripes and six white strips; together they represent the original 13 colonies that gained us liberty.
Scout #2: The red stripes remind us of the lifeblood of brave men and women who were ready to die for this, their country.
Scout #3: The white stripes remind us of purity and cleanliness of purpose, thought, word and deed.
Scout #4: The blue is for truth and justice, like the eternal blue of the star-filled heavens.
Scout #5: The stars represent the fifty sovereign states of our union.
Adult Leader or SPL: The U.S. flag should be treated with respect when it’s flying, and it should be treated with respect when it’s being retired.
Scout #6: The American Creed states, “it is my duty to my country to love it, to respect its Constitution, to obey its laws, to respect its flag, and to defend it against all enemies.”
Scout #7: Therefore, we retire flags with dignity and respect when they become worn, torn, faded, or badly soiled.
[optional, if known] Adult Leader or SPL: This flag is ready to be retired. Its history is as follows:
First Raised (when):
Memorable event or fact:
Scout #8: A flag ceases to be a flag when it is cut into pieces. We cut the flag into four pieces: three red and white striped banners and the blue star field. We leave the blue field intact because no one should ever let the union be broken.
For a cotton flag
Adult Leader or SPL: As the parts of the flag are placed in the fire remember.. Old Flags never die, they just get fired up!
The Scouts will maintain a vigil over the fire until no traces of the flag remnants remain. Then the ashes will be collected and buried. This concludes this ceremony. Thank you for attending.
For a nylon flag
Place parts of the flag respectfully into a box or bag for later disposal.
Here is a link to a ceremony that can be adapted to not use burning.