The Canadian Government legislated that all recreational boats must carry the appropriate number of marine flares for the size of boat, but they did not include methods of disposing of the expired flares.
Boaters must replace their flares every four years, thus creating a large buildup of expired flares in storage barns, garages etc, because boaters can't find out how to dispose of them properly.
Some are doing the unthinkable....
We have heard from boaters in Ontario in several places where they have been told to "soak the flares in water overnight and put them in the regular garbage". Many flares have a waterproof coating so the water may NOT get through leaving the chemicals active. Flares are not only explosive but are also hazardous waste and, although soaking them in water could prevent them flaring up, the chemicals are still there and should not go in the regular garbage. Putting the soaked flares in the garbage could put them in contact with other chemicals, causing even more serious consequences. Gases that could be produced could also be hazardous to human health.
Explosives and hazardous chemicals as those found in flares should be handled carefully and taken to a hazardous waste site for proper disposal.
After dozens of phone calls to people who I though should know, like our municipality, fire departments, OPP, Marinas, Power Squadrons, Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, Boating Ontario, Boaters, Fisheries and Oceans, Associations, our MPP's office and the Office of Boating Safety, I was somewhat frustrated because none of them could give me a proper procedure for disposing of expired marine flares.
Believe it or not, most just said "if you find out, let me know". But I was persistent and it paid off.
CIL/Orion's Cradle to Grave Policy
Finally, The Office of Boating Safety returned my most recent call and said they had followed up on my request and found a document that would answer my questions. It was CIL/Orion's "cradle to grave policy" for CIL/Orion Marine Distress signals. I then called the president of CIL/Orion and learned that this 2009 policy is still in effect and Canadian boaters can send CIL/Orion Flares to them for disposal. They will accept other brands of flares, but there is an additional charge.
There are several brands of flares on the Canadian Market, but CIL/Orion is the only Canadian Manufacturer. They have been working with several levels of government and boating associations and police to get a proper policy in place. With so many agencies involved in the decision making, there is always one that won't co-operate so nothing gets done.
Getting permission for a state-of-the-art-disposal site is one stumbling block and the other is the gathering and shipping of the flares. For an individual boater with a few expired flares, it could cost him $50 - $70 to ship them to CIL/Orion.
Until the committee comes up with something better, it makes more sense for several boaters or even a marina or association or club to get together and split the cost of shipping expired flares back to CIL/Orion.
The Procedure for Disposing of Expired Marine Flares
So, thanks to CIL/Orion, we have a procedure for disposal of their flares. We would advise Canadian boaters to get together in groups, make a list of all the expired flares and send the list to CIL/Orion. They will send you the right size and number of packages appropriately labeled "Explosive and Hazardous Material" for Purolator and the cost involved. Once received, you can fill the boxes then ship via Purolator to CIL/Orion.
This may not be the perfect answer, but it seems to be the best Canadian boaters have at the present time. We would recommend boaters in other countries contact the company who makes the flares and ask for a procedure to dispose of them.