Boaters are required to carry U.S. Coast Guard-approved daytime- and nighttime-rated visual distress signals—pyrotechnic flares are usually rated for both—while operating on U.S. coastal waters or the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, these flares expire after 42 months and cannot be recycled. They contain toxic chemicals and obviously are flammable, which makes them difficult to dispose of safely.
The federal government doesn’t have a flare disposal system in place and most states don’t have plans for disposing of them, either. This means a lot of old flares remain on boats as “spares,” or they are thrown in the trash, which is dangerous and bad for the environment.
To address this problem, next year The Sea Tow Foundation will launch a flare disposal pilot program in Florida. Using a grant from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Sea Tow Foundation will send a mobile incineration unit to events to collect expired flares.
“While flare disposal is not part of a boater’s legal responsibility, it does affect the environment when not disposed of properly,” stated Gail R. Kulp, Sea Tow Foundation’s Executive Director. She added, “Not disposing of flares properly can also impact the safety of boaters if expired flares are stored on board boats.”
Plans for the flare disposal program are still in the early stages, but www.flaredisposal.com has been created and will have more information as it becomes available.
For more information about flares and why they have expiration dates, read 5 Things You Should Know About Flares by Mario Vittone.