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New Littering and Illegal Dumping Penalties to Help Keep Tacoma Clean, Safe and Beautiful

City Council Adopts New Littering and Illegal Dumping Penalties to Help Keep Tacoma Clean, Safe and Beautiful


April 30, 2024



Maria Lee, Media & Communications, maria.lee@cityoftacoma.org, (253) 591-2054

City Council Adopts New Littering and Illegal Dumping Penalties
to Help Keep Tacoma Clean, Safe and Beautiful


TACOMA, Wash. – The City Council voted on Tuesday to adopt a new set of litter and illegal dumping code updates to further protect the health and safety of our neighborhoods. Deputy Mayor John Hines spearheaded the code updates, with co-sponsors Council Member Sarah Rumbaugh and Council Member Joe Bushnell, in response to resident concerns about litter and the need to address the littering of items that can cause damage or injury. The code changes aim to build on the City’s commitment to litter and debris cleanup in the public right-of-way, trail maintenance, business district litter can program, and community outreach and engagement strategies.


“While I have a deep pride in the grittiness of our city,” said Deputy Mayor Hines, “too often that grittiness seems to be related to the amount of litter we see in our streets. Since I joined the City Council, I have heard from countless residents that littering is not just an eyesore, but that it is a public health, public safety, and environmental concern. For that reason, we have taken many steps to address litter in our city, including launching Tidy-Up Tacoma and supporting volunteers who roll up their sleeves and do their part to help keep our city clean. We want our community to feel safe and proud of their neighborhoods, and this change in policy shows that we are committed to ensuring our community takes responsibility for its trash. I am hoping that this code change will signal to our residents that we need their help to make Tacoma a little less gritty, a little more pretty, and to keep it beautiful in the years ahead.”


The code changes include adopting the Washington state definition and penalty for potentially dangerous litter, such as glass, nails, and other items that are likely to injure a person or cause damage to a vehicle or other property. A violation for potentially dangerous litter in any amount will incur a Class 1 civil infraction. In addition, the code changes create a tiered scale for littering violations based on the amount of litter. Doing so removes the current criminal penalty for smaller-scale littering and converts the most egregious and large-scale illegal dumping acts to a gross misdemeanor. Violators will also be required to pay a litter clean-up restitution payment or pick up and remove the litter themselves.


“This update to our municipal code adapts the penalties of litter enforcement to be responsive to the amount and impact of litter people are leaving in our community,” said Council Member Rumbaugh. “It will allow the City to target the large, illegal dumping that most lowers quality of life. I also know it will take our entire community to put an end to littering in order to keep our neighborhoods clean and protect the environment that makes Tacoma a beautiful place to live. Public education has had a tremendous impact on changing behavior to prevent littering, and additional public education, outreach, and community building will be essential to putting an end to litter in Tacoma.”


“Litter impacts everyone in Tacoma. It impacts business, the environment, and how people feel when they’re out in public spaces,” said Council Member Bushnell. “It’s important that we make sure that, while most residents are doing the right thing and keeping Tacoma clean, we’re holding bad actors accountable. Our enforcement tools need to be right-sized for the offenses.”


The City encourages residents to continue reporting litter and illegal dumping through the Tacoma FIRST 311 system. More information is available here.