• City of Tacoma QA
  • City of Tacoma OpenData

Purple Bag Program

Purple Bag Program Launched to Establish Waste Pickup at Select Homeless Encampments in Tacoma

The City of Tacoma has launched a Purple Bag Project to establish regular waste pickup service at select homeless encampments in the city of Tacoma. This project is intended to limit the harmful impacts of improperly disposed waste to human health and our environment. Pilot project services will 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 Homeless Outreach Team.

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.


May 2021 Update

After 16 weeks, the first Purple Bag pilot site has concluded. This pilot helped community members clean up and dispose of 485 full bags with over 21,500 pounds of garbage from a select open space restoration site in south Tacoma. After connecting with the City's Homeless Outreach Team, some individuals living on the site also found shelter or other housing opportunities, and have since relocated from the site. Since the vacation of the encampment, the City's Open Space Program has continued habitat restoration work on the site. Based on the results of this project, the City will be expanding the program to provide purple bags to residents at other encampment sites throughout the city.

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. 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. During this pilot project, volunteer opportunities are not available for community members to assist with distribution or collection.


How 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.

The City of Tacoma is following COVID-19 guidance on encampment response from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, which recommends not dispersing already congregated encampments. By providing regular waste pickup service, we aim to improve human health and environmental outcomes in our community. 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.


Purple Bag Timeline

October - November 2020 ES and NCS had on-site conversations with unsheltered persons to learn more about their waste management needs. 
November 2020  Information about the pilot project was sent to neighboring residents via mailers, website information, and TacomaFIRST 311. 
November 2020 - April 2021

Purple bags, sharps containers, PPE, and other materials was ordered, and distribution of materials began as a pilot project.

 May 2021 ES will begin a purple bag program at a new passive open space site.


Contact Us

Additional information will be added to this site as the project continues. If a purple bag is found outside of a designated drop-off location, please contact TacomaFIRST 311 and a pickup will be scheduled.