An unserviceable U.S. flag may be destroyed in any dignified manner, according to the U.S. Code. Burning is the most common dignified method of disposal, though flags may also be buried.
A U.S. flag should be retired when it is ripped, faded, frayed or otherwise unserviceable as an emblem of the country. Though U.S. Code does not provide specific details on methods of destroying unserviceable flags, the American Legion developed its own ceremony to destroy flags respectfully through burning. Some chapters of the American Legion, VFW, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts accept public donations of damaged flags for retirement ceremonies.
Individuals are also permitted to dispose of their own flags privately. Though there is no legal penalty for improper disposal of the flag, groups such as the American Legion consider improper disposal disrespectful.