One of the questions I get asked all the time is ‘where can I get rid of my outdated flares’? Sorry to say I don’t have a good answer. Unlike tires or batteries there is no mandated disposal/recycling program (even though flares are mandated by the USCG for many vessels). Any time you deal with explosives things get difficult. Shipping is technical with each type and brand of flare requiring different “specification” packaging. Companies like UPS don’t want to ship them (can’t say that I blame them) so you are left with motor freight carriers. Even if you could ship them I am not aware of who you would ship them to for disposal. All in all it is a major pain.
Reading another blog this morning I noticed that on May 18, 2013 Elliot Bay Marina is having a safety day, complete with flare disposal. You can read more about it at Three Sheets Northwest. Hopefully this sort of event will become more common and there will be a reasonable way to dispose of hazardous outdated flares.
I keep asking myself, why do we continue to use flares? The short answer is to-date there is nothing better. A couple of companies have come up with devices which use lasers but the search and rescue folks I have talked with say there is a problem recognizing these devices for what they are, calls of help. Education will play a part here but it will need to be a world wide effort. If you are going cruising offshore you need signaling devices that any mariner or rescuer will understand. Until then I guess we are stuck with what we have.