"The flag, when it is in such condition that it is no longer a fitting emblem of
display, should be destroyed in a dignified way, preferably by burning." - The
United States Flag Code
This protocol was established a long time ago when flags were made primarily of wool or cotton. However, now most flags are made of synthetic materials that create hazardous fumes when burned. The good news is that this material can be recycled, and some groups have found a way to do this while still adhering to proper flag etiquette. They invite citizens to submit their tattered flags to be retired and recycled with the honor they deserve.
Learn more at this website. The process is easy and cheap (they ask for small donations depending on the size of the flag).
Such careful handling of our country's flag may seem old fashioned and dated to some, but it is important to remember that the flag is a sacred symbol of our country that so many men and women have died protecting. In respecting it, we respect and honor their sacrifice.
*Photo courtesy of The National Museum of American History. This picture is of the original Star Spangled Banner, now housed and preserved in the museum. You can read about its history and the preservation process at the Star Spangled Banner section of their website.