Flares contain explosives, once they are past their expiry date it is essential that out of date flares or Time Expired Pyrotechnics (TEP) are disposed of carefully.
It is illegal to dump flares at sea, illegal to dump them on land and illegal to let them off in anything other than an emergency.
Why has it become so difficult to dispose of out of date flares?
The issue of flare disposal has been a source of frustration for recreational boaters since the carriage and storage regulations changed and the MoD Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Teams routine collection service from HM Coastguard Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCC) and other collection points was withdrawn.
Arranging safe disposal
If you have out of date flares and need to arrange their safe disposal, in the first instance you should contact the supplier you bought them from to see if they will take them back.
A local life raft service agent may also be able to take your out of date flares from you as they deal with the disposal of such items on a regular basis.
It is also worth checking if your local port or marina will accept them.
You can also check with the local police or fire brigade. Neither is a ‘refuse collection and disposal agency’ but in some areas they will accept out of date flares.
TEP are hazardous goods not hazardous waste, there is therefore no requirement for councils to provide facilities for disposal, however some may and you should check with your local authority.
There are specialist hazardous waste disposal companies that will dispose of your unwanted TEP, but there will be a cost for such a service. You should keep this in mind if ordering flares on-line.
You could also check Ramora UK's diary of events for any planned flare amnesties.
Recreational boaters can, as a last resort, contact their nearest Licensed HM Coastguard Disposal Site who will advise if they can help. HM Coastguard designated stores have limited storage capacities.
If the Licensed Site can help then an appointment will be made to deposit the flares. Depending on the facilities in a given area this may involve a wait of several weeks or a long journey.
The MCA is not a ‘refuse collection and disposal agency’ and TEP are accepted at their discretion.
HM Coastguard will not accept TEP from any commercial organisations. They will need to make their own arrangements either with the supplier of their flares or if they do not provide a disposal service, with a specialist hazardous waste disposal company.
Transporting TEP by car
The regulations concerning transportation apply to places of work and places in public use, but they do not apply to individuals, so you can legally put TEP in your car and drive them to a recognised disposal site.
Ultimately the responsibility for the safe disposal of out of date flares rests with their owner. The eventual disposal of TEP must become part of your buying decision and who you buy them from.
For the RYA's guidance on what flares you should carry see the page on Calling for help.
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