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Trash voluntarily collected and disposed of by unsheltered homeless encampment residents.

Blue Bag Partnership Pilot Effort Explores Voluntary Trash Removal from Creekside Homeless Encampment

Author: Public Works
Date: 12/4/2019 12:33:48 PM

The Blue Bag Partnership Pilot effort was a 4-week collaborative effort to voluntarily remove trash from a creekside homeless encampment and was supported by law enforcement, local agencies, non-profit organizations, and homeless community members.


Trash voluntarily collected in blue bags for disposal by unsheltered homeless encampment residents. Trash voluntarily collected in blue bags for disposal by unsheltered homeless encampment residents.

The Blue Bag Partnership describes a collaborative, voluntary effort to promote sanitation and waste disposal using distinctive blue colored trash bags that are distributed to homeless community members. Local agencies, law enforcement, and non-profit organizations tested the Blue Bag Partnership concept through a 4-week Pilot effort at a San Luis Obispo County creekside homeless encampment during Fall 2019. Blue trash bags and personal sharps disposal containers were distributed weekly to encampment residents, who were also provided with short-term access to a roll-off dumpster for trash disposal.

During the first 48 hours of the Pilot effort, approximately 3.15 tons of waste were voluntarily collected and disposed of by the encampment. By the conclusion of the 4-week Pilot effort, a total of 6.8 tons of waste had been collected and disposed of by the encampment. No incentives were offered for participation in clean-up efforts.

Several unsheltered residents of the encampment engaged with the non-profit SLO Bangers Syringe Exchange Program to safely dispose of sharps (i.e. syringes, auto-injectors).  More than 200 sharps were returned to volunteers in the field for safe disposal. Homeless community members were motivated by the clean-up efforts across the encampment, and voluntarily collected and returned an additional 1,356 sharps to the SLO Bangers for disposal. 

The success of the Blue Bag Partnership trash reduction strategy depends on the willingness of agency and community partners to work together and adjust enforcement procedures to facilitate and encourage voluntary trash removal. Unsheltered members of the community, law enforcement officers, non-profit partners, and municipal staff worked together in good faith to achieve the successful outcomes of the Pilot effort.

A summary report on the Blue Bag Partnership Pilot Effort is available: Blue Bag Partnership Pilot Final Report