Flag Retirement Honors 9/11

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Provided by Prince William County Solid Waste Division

On Sept. 11, an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 United States flags were retired in a dignified manner. The flags were collected by a Boy Scouts program at the Prince William County Landfill and Balls Ford Compost Facility. Former BSA Occoquan District Chair David Bryne said that he and his sons Jake and Thomas “had the honor of retiring 1,240 pounds of flag.”  The father and sons team took the flags to the Fairfax County Energy Resource Recovery Facility, run by Covanta, for retirement.  The staff at the facility provides support for the retirement process.

Flag Retirement

Citizens and organizations may drop off their torn and tattered flags at one of the two Solid Waste Division site in Prince William County.  Each site has a special collection bin, built and donated as Boy Scout Eagle Projects.  Flags deposited into the bins are collected throughout the year and processed for retirement.  This includes distributing the flags to local scout units (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girls) to be separated based on their material.  Cotton and polyester flags are folded and often retired by these units because they burn cleanly.  The flags are retired in a solemn ceremony.  Nylon flags, becoming more and more popular for their durability and light weight, emit toxic fumes when burned. They are separated and retired by incineration once or twice annually.

Covanta, the organization that runs the Fairfax County Energy Resource Recovery Facility, is a partner of the Scouts’ program since 2019. Covanta has adopted a special process to ensure a respectful retirement of all flags presented. In this process, the flags are loaded into a special carrier, typically in plastic bags to ensure they drop properly into the incinerator. They are then taken by elevator to a special section of the incinerator to avoid them being commingled with refuse. The flags are personally escorted throughout the entire process.

Prince William County American Flag Collection Program

The Prince William County American Flag Collection Program is a joint venture between The Prince William District Boy Scouts, Keep Prince William Beautiful and Prince William County Solid Waste Division. The program was founded by David Byrne and has retired more than 20,000 U.S. flags since its inception in 2014.

“I would like to personally thank Mr. Lorenzo Irving and the staff at the Covanta facility for their help in making this possible, “said Byrne.  “The gentlemen that assist loading the flags are always respectful and professional in their efforts to maintain a dignified process for retiring the flags.”

The Prince William County American Flag Collection Program is open during normal operating hours at the landfill and Balls Ford Road sites.



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