Title:
Bag collar for loading bags
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A collapsible collar to prop open a bag includes a foldable body having a folded position and an open position, the foldable body in the open position having an open top and an open bottom, and defining an open passageway between said open top and said open bottom. The opened foldable body is sized and shaped to fit within an open bag. A supporting ear is provided on the foldable body to hold the body in position in said bag when said collar is being used, the ear being moveable between a retracted and an extended position. When extended the ear prevents the collar from being over inserted into the bag. A folded over handle props open the foldable body to keep said foldable body in said open position in said bag and helps to move said bag without tearing.



Inventors:
Mclean, Tom (Ontario, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/148493
Publication Date:
01/19/2006
Filing Date:
06/09/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65B67/12; B65B67/04; B65D33/00; B65D33/02; B65F1/14
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DUCKWORTH, BRADLEY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
VIDAS, ARRETT & STEINKRAUS, P.A. (Eden Prairie, MN, US)
Claims:
The embodiments of the invention in which an exclusive property or privilege is claimed are defined as follows:

1. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag, said collapsible collar comprising: a foldable body having a folded position and an open position, said foldable body in said open position having an open top and an open bottom, and defining an open passageway between said open top and said open bottom, said opened foldable body being sized and shaped to fit within an open bag; means for supporting said foldable body in position in said bag when said collar is being used, said support means being moveable between a retracted and an extended position; and a means to prop open said foldable body to keep said foldable body in said open position.

2. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 1 wherein said means to prop open said foldable body is integral formed with said foldable body.

3. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 2 wherein said means to prop open said foldable body comprises a folded flap on said foldable body.

4. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 3 wherein said folded flap, when folded is sized and positioned to be a handle on said foldable body.

5. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 4 wherein said folded flap includes a means to retain said folded flap in a folded position to prop open said foldable body.

6. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 5 wherein said folded flap is folded more than two times to form said handle.

7. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 1 where said means for supporting said foldable body in position in said bag when said collar is being used comprises at least one ear on said foldable body, said ear being sized and shaped to permit said ear to be held underfoot as debris is swept into said bag through said collar.

8. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 7 wherein said at least one ear is formed by a cut line formed along a portion of said foldable body.

9. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 8 wherein said cut line includes a tear through portion for retaining said at least one ear temporarily to said foldable body.

10. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 9 wherein said at least one ear includes a fold line to facilitate folding said ear away from said foldable body.

11. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 10 wherein said foldable body includes a front rear and two side walls.

12. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 11 wherein said at least one ear is formed in at least one side wall.

13. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 12 wherein there are two ears one each formed in each side wall.

14. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 10 wherein said fold line is sized and shaped to permit said at least one ear to be bent perpendicular to said side wall when said side wall is in an open position.

15. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 14 where said at least one ear is bendable beyond being perpendicular to said side wall.

16. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 1 wherein said foldable body includes mounting apertures to permit said collar to be mounted to a display rack when said body is folded flat, said mounting apertures being symmetrically disposed about a centre of gravity of said folded body.

17. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 7 wherein said at least one ear is shaped to permit said ear to be hung onto a support.

18. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 17 wherein said ear includes at least one slot to permit said ear to be hung onto a support.

19. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 18 wherein said foldable body is made from a corrugated material.

20. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 19 wherein said corrugated material is plastic.

21. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 19 wherein said corrugated material is cardboard.

22. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 21 wherein said cardboard is treated or coated to improve the durability of said cardboard.

23. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 1 wherein said foldable body includes depending flaps around a lower opening.

24. A collapsible collar to prop open a bag as claimed in claim 23 wherein said depending flaps are angled inwardly.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to the general field of garden accessories, and more particularly to a yard or garden accessory which may be used in association with large yard waste bags of the type used for bagging and disposing of yard waste such as leaves, twigs and the like.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Burning of leaves and other yard waste has been prohibited for many years in most urban and suburban settings. Home owners are now encouraged to gather up and bag their yard waste. The bags are then left at the curb and picked up and disposed of by the local municipality. Restrictions on land fill sites have encouraged many municipalities to search for ways to reduce the volume of waste going to landfill. As a result, benign or compostable yard waste is often diverted from land fill and placed in, for example, a municipal composting facility. Such yard waste, such as leaves, weeds and other plant matter, once composted into mulch, can then be used on municipal flower beds and the like.

At first the municipalities required the use of clear plastic bags, to permit the collection workers to distinguish between compostable and non-compostable waste. However, this required that the compostable material in the bags be removed from the non-degradable plastic bags at the compost facility, which was expensive and time consuming. More recently the requirement is to use large biodegradable paper bags, which are clearly marked as yard waste and which have restrictions on what can be placed in them (i.e. compostable materials only). Typically in the spring and in the fall the bags are filled by homeowners, placed on the curb. Then they are collected by municipal garbage collectors and taken to a central composting facility. Because the paper used in the bags is easily biodegradable, the waste need not be separated from the bags and is thus easier to handle. Because the bags can be dumped directly into the composter the whole composting operation less expensive.

Unfortunately, when the homeowner seeks to fill the paper yard waste bags, the paper bags are very awkward to use. Paper is easily folded and three or more bags are typically sold together in a small, tightly wrapped, folded-up package. The bags when unfolded retain some memory of their folded shape and will quickly collapse back to a closed position even after being opened. Once partially full they can retain their open shape somewhat better, but even then horizontal fold lines can have enough memory to cause the top to fall over and close. Typically two hands are required to hold the top of the bag open, which leaves no hands left to place the yard waste in the open bag. Alternatively if two hands are used to pick up the waste, no hands are left to hold open the paper bag. As a result yard waste bagging becomes a two-person job, which is inefficient and time consuming.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

What is desired is simple and practical way to keep the bag open, in a hands free manner, so that the hands can be used to lift, rake or sweep yard waste or debris into the open bag top. Such a device should be quick and easy to use and inexpensive to make, while being effective and re-usable. Such a device will also facilitate holding the top of the bag open, whether the bag is lying on its side, with its open top adjacent to the ground or whether the bag is upright. As well it is desirable if the device includes means to hold the bag in position as it is being filled in either the lying down or upright positions.

According to the present invention there is provided an insert collar which can be inserted into the top opening of a paper bag to hold open or prop open the top. The insert collar then forms a liner, chute or opening through which yard waste is passed into the bag. The insert collar includes features to ensure that the collar remains in an open position, such as an easily positionable element to prop open the collar. This element is most preferably retractable so that after use the collar can be collapsed for easy storage. Preferably the device will be used for bags which are either in an upright or upright or lying down loading position. Most preferably the insert collar includes features to help hold the collar in position for either bag loading position. Additionally the present invention facilitates the movement of partially full or full bags by providing a handle and a load distributing structure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Reference will now be made to drawings which, by way of example only, illustrate preferred embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a bag insert according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 is view of a flat panel blank from which the insert of FIG. 1 may be formed;

FIG. 3 is a top view of the bag insert of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a side view of the bag insert of FIGS. 1 and 3;

FIG. 5 is a view of the bag insert in FIG. 1 lying down;

FIG. 6 is a view of the bag insert of FIG. 5 in use in the lying down position; and

FIG. 7 is a view of the bag insert of the present invention in a bag and in place on a cart in an upright position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 shows the present invention in its preferred propped open or expanded form. In this form the insert collar 10 takes the shape of a rectangular tube, which is sized to fit closely within the top opening of a paper yard waste bag. The insert collar 10 may be made from any suitable material, such as cardboard, treated cardboard or corrugated plastic material. Although corrugated materials are preferred due to their stiffness and light weight, other materials are also comprehended, such as sheet material such as plastic or other materials. The most preferred material is a corrugated plastic material, which is between 2 and 5 millimetres thick and most preferable about 3 millimetres thick. A treated cardboard, such as wax or plastic coated cardboard will also provide reasonable results. In some cases it may be preferred to use a biodegradable material, so the insert collar can be disposed of with the bags upon completion of the bagging of the yard waste. In other cases a longer lasting product, which can be used for a number of seasons may be preferred. In any case what is desired is light weight sheet material which is somewhat rigid and puncture resistant, can be die cut, takes a crease to form a fold line and has most preferably some memory. As well, to facilitate using the present invention it is preferred if the material can be printed, so instructions, and other material may be printed on the outside faces of the material if desired.

As shown in FIG. 1 the present invention comprises generally an insert collar 10 having an open top 12 and an open bottom 14. Front 16, side 18, 20 and rear 22 panels are provided, which form a chute between the open top and the open bottom. The side panels are each of the same dimensions and the front and back panels are preferably of the same dimension, but most preferable the front and back panels have a width greater than a width of the side panels so that the insert from above forms a rectangle, with the long sides being the front and rear panels. As will be explained in more detail below, having these panels longer makes it easier to fill the bag with yard waste.

The most preferred size of the rectangle is one which just closely fits into a standard yard waste paper bag. In the event there are a number of paper bag sizes available it is preferred to size the insert collar to fit within the smallest standard size. Quite simply, if it fits within the smallest size, then, the same size will also fit within a larger bag opening. In this sense fits into should be a fit that is easy to make, so is not too tight, but is one that is not too loose either. The larger the top opening in the insert collar, the easier it is to place bulky yard waste therein. Similarly, the larger the cross sectional area of the chute of the insert collar, the easier it is to pass the yard waste through the collar and into the bag. However, ease of loading yard waste through the collar must be balanced against ease of placing the collar into the bag in the first place. The collar should not be so big as to create a tight fit of the collar into the bag which is awkward to complete.

While for ease of manufacturing it is preferred to provide only one standard size of collar, it will be appreciated that the present invention can be formed to any desired dimensions and thus can be sized to fit closely within any size of bag opening. Further while in the preferred form the chute formed by the collar is of a consistent cross sectional area, the present invention also comprehends that the collar may be funnel shaped or otherwise change area over its length.

The insert collar 10 of the present invention may be of any height, of between ¼ to the full height of a yard bag. Most preferably, the insert collar is between about ¼ and ⅔ of the bag height, with a collar height of about ⅓ of the bag height providing reasonable results.

In FIG. 1 two ears are shown extending from the top edge of the insert collar 10 at 24, 26. The ears are a preferred form of a means to hold the insert collar, and therefore by extension a bag into which the insert collar is inserted into, in position while being filled. The means for holding, or ears 24, 26 are explained in more detail below. An opening is provided at 28, in the form of a slot and a handle is provided at 30. Inwardly directed flaps 31, by reason, for example, of the memory of the material, are provided around the lower opening 14.

FIG. 2 shows a preferred form of insert collar 10 according to the present invention in blank form 32. It will be appreciated that the present invention can be easily mass produced, such as by die stamping, and thus can be made quickly and inexpensively. The blank 32 includes the elements described above, except they are presented in a flat blank format rather than being supported in an open or in use position as in FIG. 1. Thus, there are the front panel 16, the side panel 18, the back or rear panel 22 and the other side panel 20. Vertical fold lines or creases are shown by dashed lines 36 between each of the adjoining panels. Horizontal fold lines 38 are shown across the bottoms of each panel and fold lines 40 are shown across the top of front panel 16. Triangular shaped notches 43 are formed between each of the panels at the bottoms thereof to permit the inward bending of the bottom flaps 31, about fold lines 38 when the panels are in the assembled position.

Also shown in FIG. 2 is a side fastener strip 42 with glue spots 44. This strip is used to complete the fourth joint between front and side panels (the other three joints being fold lines in a continuous sheet of material). The present invention comprehends many ways to complete the collar by making the attachment along the edge, such as glue, staples, hot and cold welding, sonic welding and the like. One preferred way is to cut out the blank of FIG. 2, then fold over the front panel and the side panels, so that the fastener strip 42 lies over or below the outer face of the front panel. Heat and pressure can then be applied to cause the pre-applied glue to secure the front and side panels together. As will be understood by those skilled in the art, the other forms of connection can also be used.

Once the fastener strip is attached the fold line 50 becomes the last joint in what is now a continuous insert collar. What is desired is to form a joint so that when expanded, the insert forms a hollow chute or tube through which yard waste may pass into an interior of a yard waste bag. In this way a folded over, completed article can be mass produced and is easily shipped and stored at retailers for purchased by consumers in the flattened or folded position. In this way the product takes up less shelf space at the retail level. Most preferably, the folded over insert collars of the present invention can be band wrapped for shipping and storage or even packed into a carton. Most preferably the folded over article has one or more through holes located at or around a centre of gravity, so a number of folded over devices can be suspended from a retail display rack, if desired.

While the foregoing method of making a blank and then securing it along one edge yields good results other methods of construction are also comprehended by the present invention. For example, the collar may be formed as a single unitary element, such as by blow molding, injection molding or the like. In this case the unit could be made to be naturally fully expanded in the open position, and could have living hinges formed at the corners to permit the device to be collapsed.

Once the insert collar of the present invention is to be used, then certain simple and easy assembly steps are required. The first thing is to remove the insert collar, in its folded flat position, from any sleeve, wrapping or other packaging that it might come in. The next step is to expand the folded over insert collar from its flat shipping position to an open or in use position. This is done by simply inserting a hand in between the folded sections and bending the panels at the preexisting creases at the corners, until the insert collar is in the form of an open rectangle. Alternatively the user can urge opposed corners together to cause the insert open. The present invention comprehends that the insert collar may have a naturally folded or flat position, which needs to be expanded, or it may have a naturally expanded position and must be collapsed for storage. In this latter case the corners would provide enough memory to cause the collar to remain in an open position. Clips would be provided to temporarily secure the collar in the collapsed position. The collar could be put into an in use position by removing the clip to let the collar expand to the open position.

It can now be understood that for a preferred form of the present invention in which the natural position of the device is in the folded over or collapsed position what is desired is a means to prop open the insert collar in the in use position. Although various methods can be used good results have been achieved as follows. In FIG. 2 the blank is shown with an extended section 60 above the front panel with a plurality of lateral fold lines 40. According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the top edge 66 can be folded over and refolded over again one or more times to form a triangular bar of folded up panel material. Also shown in FIG. 2 is a pair of triangular cut outs 70, 72 in each of the side panels. As can now be appreciated, once the extended section is fully folded down, then the ends will be position to fit into the cut outs 70, 72. In this way the folded over triangular section acts as a handy handle to grasp to manipulate the collar 10 and the registry of the folded over section with the cut outs 70, 72 retain the folded over section in position so the multiple folds form a beam to structurally prop the insert collar in an open or in use insert collar position.

The folded over section can double as a handle since it has the additional advantage of being relatively strong, due to the multiplicity of folds at this section. Thus the folded over section can bear a reasonable amount of force even when the panel material is otherwise fairly flexible. It will be understood that such a handle is a useful feature. The paper yard waste bags used are typically quite weak and easily tear. As such there is a tendency for them to tear as they are being filled, or even as they are being moved. The tearing occurs when a load is concentrated on a small section of the edge of the bag, for example, as the home owner tries to drag a full bag to the curb. By means of the handle on the collar, the forces are concentrated on the collar, but are spread out across web of the bag by the collar. Thus, using the handle, where the insert is for example wedged in place by the contents of a full bag, can reduce the tendency for the paper bag to tear and spill its contents when manipulating the bag.

Further the preferred location for the triangular bar handle 60 is above the front panel, so that it does not form an obstruction to sweeping material through the collar, when the collar is placed on its rear panel in a bag which is laying on its side. Tabs can be used to ensure reasonably secure registry of the folded over triangular bar handle 60 with the notches 70, 72. It can also be appreciated that the collar may be easily collapsed into a flat or folded up position, simply by removing the ends of the handle 60 from the notches, by unrolling or unfolding the handle and then applying a small force onto said collar to cause it to collapse. In this way the collar may be easily stored for future reuse, once all of the yard waste is collected and it is no longer needed.

Turning back to FIG. 2, it can be seen that cut lines 80, 82 are formed in the rear panel and extend across the top of the side panels. The cut lines 80, 82 define the ears 24, 26. Most preferable the cut lines 80, 82 are formed at the same time as the blank is formed. Further small uncut lands 83, 85 are most preferably formed in each cut line 80, 82 at the same time, which then act as a tear through connection to keep the ears 24, 26 in place until they are ready to be deployed as explained in more detail below. Due to the cut lines 80, 82, once the tear through tabs are broken, the ears may be bent away from the tops of the side panels to extend outwardly. The ears are a means to to hold the insert collar in place, when the yard waste is being passed through the collar and into a bag. In a first aspect, the ears may be bent at a 90 degree angle from the side panels, as shown in FIG. 3. In this position they are essentially coplanar with the rear face of the collar. In this aspect, the collar has been inserted into the top of a bag, either when the bag is upright or lying down. The ears, at 90 degrees to the plane of the side panels represent a stop and prevent the insert collar from being over inserted into the bag. In other words the projecting ears limit the downward movement of the insert collar in the bag 44. Then, if bag loading occurs while the bag is laying on its side, the ears can form handy stepping tabs to help hold the insert collar, and hence the bag, in place during vigorous raking or sweeping of yard waste through the collar and into the bag. By being positioned, sized and shaped to be stepped upon when the insert collar is in use, the ears permit a hands free way of holding the collar in place against the forces generated by trying to push or sweep bulky yard waste through the collar and into the bag. Thus, in addition to propping open the bag the ears permit the bag to be held in place in a hands free manner. Thus the ears are sized and shaped to be easily clamped underfoot to in turn hold the collar in position during bag loading when the bag is lying down as shown in FIG. 6.

The ears also have an additional aspect, in that they may be further bent past 90 degrees to about 180 degrees relative to the plane of the side panels. As shown, the cut lines 80, 82 extend past the intersection of the side and rear panels, thus permitting the ears to be further extended away from the rear panel of the collar. The ears are provided with a slot 28 or other means to permit the ears to be placed over an external support 99 FIG. 7. The external support can be a cross member of a cart for example, or other upstanding structure such as a fence plank which the ears can hook over. While the example of a slot is given, other shapes of cut outs are also comprehended either on the ears or on the collar to facilitate holding the insert collar upright. A further example is a hook opening 100, for supporting the collar on a protruding spike, nail or the like, which may be strategically located in a post or the like. Accordingly, the present invention comprehends that the insert collar is provided with a means to facilitate being supported by an upstanding structure, whereby the insert can be supported by the upstanding structure and the bag is supported by the insert collar in an open position.

It will now be appreciated that the connection of the ears to the balance of the insert collar will be a region of high stress. Thus, it is desirable to reinforce or otherwise render this connection secure against tearing. In one aspect this is accomplished by making the collar from a strong material such as plastic. Where the collar is made from weaker material, such as biodegradable cardboard, for example, it may be necessary to provide reinforcement at the connection between the ears and the collar, such as a tape or other material or by increasing the width of the connection.

To facilitate the first placement of the insert collar into an open top of a flexible bag, the present invention provides the inwardly bent flaps 31, at the lower edges of the panel sections. This presents a tapered profile to the lowermost edge of the insert collar making the insertion of the bottom end into the top of the bag easier. The taper also facilitates placing yard waste into the bag. It will now be understood that with the ears retracted, the insert collar of the present invention may be placed down at the bottom of the bag to act as a puncture resistant liner. Then as the bag is filled the collar may be raised by the handle to allow the liner to contain the force applied to the debris as it is being stuffed into the bag, until the liner is at the top of the bag. Then the ears can be extended if desired. These features, in combination, permit the insert collar of the present invention to be useful in both upright and prone bag filling positions and in this way facilitate the natural use filing sequence of a bag of first partially filing the bag in a prone position and then completing filling the bag in an upright position.

It can now be appreciated that the present invention provides a simple and yet elegant structure to prop open a yard bag for hands free filling of the same. The insert may be fully inserted to the bottom of the bag, if the ears are not folded out, and in this manner provides a reinforcing liner to protect the generally weaker bag material from puncture by sticks or the like as the yard waste is being packed into the bag. The liner can be raised within the bag as the bag is filled, like a slip form by gripping the triangular handle 60. Eventually the insert collar can be removed from the bag, when the bag is full and then the collar may be inserted onto another bag and reused to fill a second or a further empty bag. The use of a puncture resistant slip liner can permit the bags to be more densely packed, thus requiring fewer bags than would otherwise be the case.

While the foregoing description has been in respect of various preferred embodiments of the invention, it will be appreciated that other modifications can be made without departing from the broad scope of the appended claims. Some of these modifications have been suggested above and others will be apparent to those who are skilled in the art. For example while two ears are preferred adequate results may be obtained with having only one ear. It expected that this will be less satisfactory however, since in this case the ear will be off centre and more awkward to use.