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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 (NCS) 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 Bags

 Purple 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 HEAL 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.


Purple Bag Final Report

View the full Purple Bags Pilot Summary Report.


2024 - Expanding With a New Pilot Program: Mobile Toilet Kits 


mobile toilet kit

Based on how well the Purple Bag Program is working, Environmental Services and Neighborhood and Community Services (NCS) are now partnering to pilot a n

ew addition to the program: personal mobile toilet kits. The personal mobile toilet kits will be provided through the HEAL team to approximately 10 individuals, in a variety of locations, who agree to participate for an 8-week trial period in July and August to test the out the kits and provide feedback to assess the effectiveness of the kits.  This website will continue to be updated as additional information about the pilot program becomes available. 


The mobile toilet kits, modeled after kits that have been distributed by a volunteer in Seattle, are intended to provide a safe, hygienic, and private toilet option for unhoused individuals where public restroom facilities are not available.  The kits will include a small privacy tent, adjustable bucket with purple bag liners and kitty litter, toilet paper, sanitary wipes, and other personal hygiene products.



The waste will be securely contained in the purple bags and picked up by the City’s contractor in the same way they are currently picking up purple bags of garbage and litter.  If you see a purple bag, call 311 or click here to notify the City for pick up.


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 through Tacoma FIRST 311 under "Purple Bag Program" and the bags will be collected.