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Purple Bag Program

Purple Bag Programs Expands City-wide to Provide Waste Pickup at Homeless Encampments

The City of Tacoma launched a Purple Bag Project to establish regular waste pickup service at homeless encampments within the City. Partnerships with Neighborhood and Community Services resulted in the expansion of the Purple Bag Pilot to a City-wide effort. This project was launched to limit the harmful impacts of improperly disposed waste to human health and our environment. By providing tools and services, we promote proper disposal of trash and contaminated objects. Currently, an average of 10,000 purple bags are distributed annually throughout the City.


Project services continue to include: 

  • Distribution of purple trash bags, sharps containers, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to individuals experiencing homelessness living on City-owned open space restoration sites.
  • Regular waste pickup services coordinated with a third-party cleanup contractor.
  • Ongoing outreach and resource services by our HEAL Team (Homeless Engagement Alternatives Liaison).

Purple BagsPurple bags are a temporary solution intended to help individuals experiencing homelessness maintain safe and clean living areas until they are able to connect with shelters or other housing opportunities that meet their needs. Our Homeless Outreach Team continues to provide regular outreach to individuals living in encampments. To request outreach support to individuals living in an encampment, please make a request online or call (253) 591-5000.


Pilot Project Final Report

View the full Purple Bags Pilot Summary Report.

Frequently Asked Questions 


Why are the bags purple?

The unique purple color distinguishes these bags from those intended for other cleanup programs or general use. It also helps differentiate what a person would like to dispose of and what they would like to keep, which may be stored in a different colored bag. The purple bag model has been used in other cities, including Seattle and Austin, Texas.


Who can distribute and collect purple bags?

Distribution of purple bags is coordinated in partnership with a third-party cleanup contractor. Collection services are not managed by the City's Solid Waste utility, and operates as a separate and distinct service. Volunteer opportunities are available for community members to assist with distribution. Please email Sayde Heminger for more information. 


purple bagsHow Does Improperly Disposed of Waste Impact the Environment?

Garbage, human waste, hazardous materials, and other improperly disposed items can negatively impact environmental quality and function by damaging vegetation, increasing erosion, and contributing to pollution. Hazardous waste can also end up in our surface water – damaging our delicate watersheds and marine ecosystems.

A significant number of community members experiencing homelessness are currently living on or around passive open space sites and stormwater facilities managed by the City of Tacoma. By providing regular waste pickup service, the City of Tacoma aims to improve human health and environmental outcomes on these sites and our community.


Contact Us

Additional information will be added to this site as the project continues. If you see a purple bag that needs to be picked up, please submit a request on SeeClickFix under "Purple Bag Program" and the bags will be collected.