Flare disposal has been an issue for some time, and as flares contain explosives, it is essential that out of date flares or Time Expired Pyrotechnics (TEP) are disposed of carefully. It is a criminal offence to dump flares at sea or on the land, or to let them off in anything other than an emergency.
The owner is responsible for flare disposal in a safe and legal manner, and so this should be considered when deciding where to buy them from. Check with your local chandlery, many now offer a flare exchange service when you buy new flares and use one that does if at all possible. Buying online may appear cheaper but if you have to then arrange flare disposal when they are out of date yourself they soon won’t be!
Some time ago the carriage and storage regulations changed and the MoD Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Teams withdrew their routine collection service from HM Coastguard Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCC) and other collection points as a result. The regulations concerning transportation only apply to places of business, work and public use, they do not apply to individuals. This means you can legally put flares and other TEP in your car and drive them to a recognised disposal site, which will usually be by appointment only. Limits and restrictions may apply, for further advice please contact the MCA for advice.
If you have out of date flares and need to arrange to dispose of them safely you should contact the supplier you bought them from in the first instance to ask if they will take them back. If you bought them online this won’t be an option, so again, consider this when buying and try to choose an option that includes safe disposal.
Some life raft service agents may also be able to take your out of date flares as they need to dispose of them on a regular basis. However, as this is at a cost to them they may not be willing to do so, or may only take a certain number from existing customers. If you are looking to have a liferaft serviced, or hire or buy one, check with your local life raft agent as if you use them they may offer a flare disposal service.
If you are based near a large port or marina it is also worth checking if they will accept them as they may have arrangements for flare disposal already. You can also check with your local police and fire brigade, neither are a ‘refuse collection and disposal agency’ but in some areas they will accept out of date flares. As flares and TEP are hazardous goods not hazardous waste, there is no requirement for councils to provide facilities for disposal, however some may so check with your local authority.
There are also companies who specialise in hazardous goods disposal and can offer this service at a price. Sometimes if you have other friends and fellow boat owners who need to dispose of flares and TEP they will do a discount if you contact them as a group. The cost can be quite high though so this is another reason to not buy flares online! It is also worth checking for further advice and flare amnesties with Ramora UK.
If none of the above are available or suitable, contact your local Maritime & Coastguard Agency office to see if they can help. Locally, you can now dispose of out of date flares by appointment at the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) Office in Colchester, Essex on the last Thursday of the month. You will be asked to supply a list of ALL flares to be disposed of, their type and their expiry date so have this ready when you call.
This service is strictly by APPOINTMENT ONLY, please contact Dover Coastguard on 01304 218500 to book.
Further information together with a list of other areas Coastguard Operations Centres can be found at this link.
Please be aware that this service is only available to individual Members of the Public and is not available to Sailing Clubs and Commercial Organisations. HM Coastguard will not accept flares or TEP from any commercial organisations, who will will need to make their own arrangements. These should either be with the supplier of their flares or if they do not provide a disposal service, with a specialist hazardous goods disposal company.
If you find old flares on the shore, or dumped illegally anywhere, you should not touch them but dial 999 and ask for the Coastguard..