Disposing of unwanted marine flares

Flares and the law

It is an offence to:

  • fire flares on land or in a harbour
  • fire flares at sea for testing, practice or as fireworks
  • dump pyrotechnics at sea
  • leave flares to be discovered

Damaged or out of date flares should never be used. They should be disposed of safely as soon as possible.

Disposing of unwanted flares

Only contact HM Coastguard when all other means of disposal have been exhausted. Our facilities are very limited and we can only accept a small number of flares from individuals.

Before contacting HM Coastguard try:

  • the place you bought them, they may offer a ‘take back’ scheme
  • marinas, a small charge may apply
  • life raft service stations, some offer a service
  • the local council, they may be accepted at local recycling centres

If you are still unable to dispose of flares you can then contact your nearest coastguard licensed site, listed below. We will advise if we can help. We do not provide a collection service and we are unable to accept flares from commercial organisations.

HM Coastguard has no responsibility for disposing of flares. We accept them at our own discretion and our storage facilities are limited. Only some of our locations are licensed to store flares.

On contacting a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) you will be asked:

  • who you have previously contacted to arrange disposal
  • how many flares you need to dispose of
  • how old they are
  • what condition they are in

If we can help, we will arrange for a time for you to deliver the flares. You may be expected to travel a long distance, or wait several weeks depending on the facilities available in your area.

Do not turn up at HM Coastguard premises without prior agreement. The majority of coastguard locations are not licensed and you will be turned away.

Do not collect flares from others. We only accept a reasonable number of flares from individuals in line with the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) carriage recommendations. We do not accept flares from commercial organisations.

Do not leave flares to be discovered. It’s against the law and dangerous. You may be prosecuted if you leave flares outside coastguard, RNLI, police, or fire service premises. Flares may be picked up by children who could be seriously injured or killed as a result.

Do not put flares in household rubbish, garden waste or public litter bins. They can cause extensive damage to refuse collection facilities and may injure persons who come into contact with them.


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