Title:
Method and apparatus for vacuum release of a trash bag in a waste container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method and apparatus prevents vacuum restraint during removal of a plastic trash bag liner from a trash container. The side wall of the trash container includes a vent port near the bottom of the container, and a flapper valve attached above the vent port on the inside of the container covers the port with a covering element while the trash bag rests. When the trash bag is filled and thereafter lifted out of the trash container, the covering element lifts to open the vent port and cause an inflow of air under the trash bag to prevent a vacuum forming.



Inventors:
Herndon, George W. (Thomasville, GA, US)
Application Number:
12/421349
Publication Date:
10/15/2009
Filing Date:
04/09/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
29/401.1
International Classes:
B65D25/14
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHEUNG, CHUN HOI
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BRIAN D. BELLAMY (THOMASVILLE, GA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A method for preventing vacuum restraint of a plastic trash bag comprising: providing a trash container with an interior defined by a bottom wall a plurality of side walls; providing a vent port in one of the side walls substantially near the bottom wall; covering the vent port with a covering element while the trash bag rests in the trash container and is filled; and lifting the covering element to open the vent port and cause an inflow of air under the trash bag upon lifting the trash bag upward out of the trash container.

2. A method for preventing vacuum restraint of a plastic trash bag as in claim 1 in which covering the vent port includes providing a flapper valve attached above the vent port on the interior of the trash container with the covering element provided on the flapper valve for covering the vent port.

3. A method for preventing vacuum restraint of a plastic trash bag as in claim 2 in which a flexible arm is provided on the flapper valve for retaining the covering element and the flexible arm bends when lifting the covering element.

4. An apparatus for prevention of vacuum restraint that may occur during removal of a plastic trash bag comprising: a trash container having a bottom wall and side walls that define an interior of the trash container; a vent port through one of the side walls situated at a position substantially near the bottom wall; and a flapper valve having a mounting element, a flexible arm and a covering element and attached in the interior of the trash container by affixing the mounting element to the side wall above the vent port such that the covering element is arranged to cover the vent port when resting.

5. An apparatus as described in claim 4 in which the vent port is a circular hole and the covering element is a circular plug.

6. An apparatus as described in claim 4 in which the covering element include an inside face having a friction creating element comprised of a raised surface.

7. A method of modifying an existing trash container to prevent vacuum restraint that may occur when a plastic trash bag is pulled out of the trash container, said method comprising: obtaining a flapper valve; making a vent port through a wall of the trash container and at a position substantially near a bottom wall of the trash container; attaching the flapper valve to the wall of the trash container at a position above the vent port when the trash container is upright so that the flapper valve flexibly lifts inward and upward and so that a plug on the flapper valve aligns with the vent port and seals the vent port closed when resting and so that the plug opens the vent port causing a flow of outside air into the trash container when the trash bag is lifted.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for improving trash receptacles by preventing vacuum restraint of a trash bag during removal. In particular, the invention prevents vacuum restraint by introducing air to the trash receptacle through a valve during removal of the bag.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Trash containers for collecting trash and waste often are typically lined with plastic trash bags. Once the container is full, the plastic trash bag lining the container is removed to clean and empty the container. However, the weight and volume of the trash bag often fills the entire volume of the container, especially the lower portion of the container. During the filling of the trash bag, air is pressed out of the container from below the bag and the bag begins to press against the walls of the container. When removing the trash bag, the bag remains pressed against the container sometimes forming an air lock seal that creates a vacuum below the bag within the container. Such vacuum causes a restraint that makes removal of a bag more difficult, particularly for weak and infirm individuals. Thus, it would be beneficial to eliminate the vacuum restraint within a trash container when the trash bag is removed so as to prevent the nuisance of such restraint.

Several prior devices provide vacuum prevention or removal by a various methods but without all of the advantages of the present invention. For instance, some devices reduce vacuum restraint by flow of air from the top of the container. U.S. Pat. No. 7,438,199 to Tidrick, U.S. Pat. No. 6,594,876 to Stastny, U.S. Pat. No. 4,294,379 to Bard, U.S. Pat. No. 6,015,063 to Poliquin and U.S. Pat. No. 5,492,241 Barnett, et al. vent air from the top of the container and each require a conduit to the top of the container. This conduit likely increases the cost of construction of the container or requires aftermarket modification with lose parts that remain separable from the container. Such an open air vent to the top of a trash container also has the potential for release odors from the bottom of the container.

Several others trash containers provide baffles formed within the interior of the container wall, such as U.S. Pat. No. 6,736,281 to Joseph. These baffles modify the interior shape of the container or add to the complexity and cost of manufacture of the container itself. As with the top venting methods, such baffles may permit odors from to the bottom of the container to be released upwardly.

Other trash containers are vented at the bottom of the container with a plurality of holes such as in U.S. Pat. No. 5,803,303 to Timm, et al. and U.S. Pat. No. 5,690,247 to Boover. These holes remain open during use of the container and provide potential for leakage of liquid waste from the container and release of odors. In some cases the holes may be covered by the liner and create a seal that does not rapidly relieve a vacuum restraint when removing the bag.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,388,717 to LeVasseur provides a large enough vent with a grill structure, but does not provide a valve or closure for the vent. The vent may release odors and permit insects and other pests into the container. Further, the vent may be blocked by the bag, causing a temporary vacuum restraint.

A need exists for a vacuum release means for trash receptacles that overcomes the disadvantages associated with these prior devices. Such vacuum release should be easy to construct, adaptable to new or existing containers, resistant to pests or odors related to the trash container, automatic and instant releasing of vacuum restraint when removing a trash bag and of long-lasting construction.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In view of the foregoing shortcomings of vented trash containers and the need for a trash container that effectively provides for elimination of vacuum restraint, the present invention provides a new and improved method and apparatus for preventing vacuum restraint within a trash container when removing a plastic liner or bag. To attain this, the present invention provides a new construction of a valve and vent aperture within a trash container. The container comprises a bottom wall with a plurality of side walls extending upwardly from the bottom wall to define the container with a large opening at the top for receiving a plastic trash bag. The vent aperture is formed in one of the side walls of the container. A flapper valve is attached to the container and arranged to lift inward and upward upon removal of the trash bag. The flapper valve includes a boot that settles into the vent aperture and can seal the vent aperture closed until the trash bag is lifted upward. In combination with means to form the vent aperture, the flapper valve and attachment accessory may be provided as a kit to adapt the method and device to existing trash containers.

There are several objects of the present invention, including the following:

A first object is the instant relief of vacuum restraint from a trash container when removing a plastic trash bag from the container. Thus, an object is also for the vacuum relief system to work automatically.

Another object is to provide a vacuum relief system for trash receptacles that is pest and odor resistant.

Another object is to cheaply incorporate a vacuum relief system into existing trash containers, while also providing a system that incorporates into new trash containers without greatly increasing the cost of manufacture. Thus, another object is to use preexisting stock components for construction.

Still another object is to provide a vacuum relief method and apparatus that does not effect the volume or effectiveness of the container by negatively impacting the nesting of the plastic liner in the trash container, reducing the capacity of the container, or causing trash bags to snag and tear within the container.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a trash container with a vacuum release valve in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view of the trash container.

FIG. 3 is a perspective and side view of the flapper and plug in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a partial side view of the trash container wall showing the construction of the vacuum release valve in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings, FIGS. 1 through 4 illustrate improvements to a trash container 10 that make removal of a plastic trash bag 18 free of vacuum restraint. Such improvements may be applied to household trash containers, yard debris containers, and commercial trash containers that are suitable for disposable plastic trash bag liners. FIG. 1 illustrates a preferred embodiment of the invention. The trash container 10 is shown with a plastic trash bag 18 inserted. The bag 18 is removed when full by pulling the bag upward out of the container 10 with force. The invention reduces the removal force required by eliminating vacuum restraint of the bag 18 during removal. The trash container 10 comprises a bottom wall 20 as shown in FIG. 2 and a plurality of side walls 26 that are rectangular, curved or a combination thereof. The side walls 26 extend upward from the bottom wall 20, and the bottom wall and side walls define the interior 28 of the trash container 10. The material the trash container 10 is constructed of may vary and is not limited to plastic or metal. The trash container 10 has an open top for the insertion and removal of the disposable plastic trash bag 18. The plastic trash bag 18 is placed within the trash container 10 to line the interior 28 and make removal of waste easy and clean.

One of the side walls 26 of the trash container 10 is modified and improved to include an air allowing component 16 that includes a vent port 30. The vent port 30 is situated substantially near or adjacent to the bottom wall 20 to promote the correct air flow. Usually the vent port 30 is about 1.5 inches from the bottom wall 20. The vent port 30 allows air to enter the interior 28 of the trash container 10 under and around the plastic trash bag 18 when removing the trash bag. By the entry of the air, the vacuum potential in the trash container does not develop, and the vacuum restraint is prevented. The vent port 30 shown is a circular hole and about 1.875 inches in diameter. The size of the vent port 30 may be adjusted according to the size of the trash container 10 or according to the side of the plug 39, usually from about 1.0 to 3.0 inches. Most vented trash containers 10 will function effectively with a single vent port 30 and a flapper valve 34 to preclude development of a vacuum under the trash bag 18 in said container. However, additional vent ports 30 may be added for very large trash containers. Larger containers may require two or more vent ports 30 and flapper valves 34. Although, no more than two vent ports 30 should be needed for typical household garbage containers.

The vent port 30 is covered from the interior of the trash container 10 by a flapper valve 34. The flapper valve 34 includes a mounting element 36, a flexible arm 37, and a movable covering element 38. FIG. 3 illustrates the flapper valve 34 separate from the trash container 10 in which the flapper valve 10 is constructed of a single prefabricated piece of durable and flexible material such as Neoprene, synthetic rubber or a similar material. The mounting element 36 is affixed to the interior surface of the side wall of the trash container 10 above the vent port 30 as shown in FIG. 2 and FIG. 4. The flexible arm 37 extends downward from the mounting element 36 and holds the movable covering element 38 in its position relative to the vent port 30. When lowered and closed, the covering element 38 fits into or over the vent port 30 to close the vent port and prevent the entry of outside air or pests, or the escape of odor or debris from the interior 28 of the container 10.

The mounting element 36 may be attached to the interior of the trash container 10 by any suitable means. The mounting point is determined such that the flexible arm 37 will hold the covering element 38 for lifting and lowering the covering element with respect to the vent port 30 and covering the vent port when lowered. The attachment means may include welding and bonding processes, gluing, or mechanical fastener. Rivets are one suitable choice for mechanical fastener because of their strength and smooth profile on the interior and exterior surfaces of the trash container 10.

The flexible arm 37 may comprise a soft, flexible rubber material like that used in common toilet tank flapper valves. The rubber material is durable, resistant to corrosion and flexible enough for the purpose of providing a lifting valve in trash containers. The flexible arm 37 connects the covering element 38 to the mounting element 36 and provides a lever for lifting the covering element upward while pivoting about the mounting point. The flexible arm 37 should be flexible enough that the friction and suction of lifting a trash bag 18 from the trash container 10 causes the arm to flex and allows the covering element 38 to lift, opening the vent port 30.

The covering element 38 extends from the flexible arm 37 and is shaped to cover the vent port 30. The shape and design of the covering element 38 may be customized according to the shape and configuration of the vent port 30. In the mode shown in the figures, the covering element 38 comprises a circular plug 39 on the outside face of the covering element that fits within the vent port 30. The covering element 38 also includes a flange 40 about the circular plug 39 that overlaps and covers the edge of the vent port 30 on the interior of the trash container side wall 26. Thus, the covering element 38 creates a seal around the vent port 30 when closed. The covering element 38 may include a raised surface 42 or other friction creating element on the inside face of the covering element that improves the lifting action of the flapper valve 34 when removing a trash bag 18 from the container 10.

A preexisting trash container 10 may incorporate the features of the present invention through provision of a kit. The kit includes a device or instructions for forming the vent port 30 in one side wall of the trash container 10 about 1.5 inches above the bottom wall 20. A device or instructions are also provided for attaching the flapper valve 34 to the interior of the trash container 10 by a bonding agent, glue, or mechanical fastener that is also included with the kit.

During use of the trash container 10, an empty trash bag is placed into the container through the open top so that the bottom of the trash bag rests upon the interior surface of the bottom wall 20. The trash bag is gradually filled with garbage until time to remove and replace the full trash bag 18. Upon which time, the trash bag 18 is pulled upward and out of the trash container. In doing so, the movable flapper valve 34 is activated and automatically detects a developing vacuum potential. The flapper valve 34 reacts by the covering element 38 lifting with the flexible arm 37 flexing inward and upward, thus allowing outside air to enter through the vent port 30 into the interior of the trash container 10 under and around the full trash bag 18. Since the vacuum restraint does not develop, the full trash bag 18 can more easily be lifted out of the trash container 10 without the restriction of a vacuum buildup within the container. The covering element 38 relaxes on the flexible arm 37 and rests back into the vent port 30 when the bag is not being removed or a new empty bag is inserted. The covering element 38 is allowed to compress firmly against the inside of the side wall 26, effectively sealing the vent port 30.

Although the invention has been described in terms of exemplary embodiments, it is not limited thereto. Rather, the appended claims should be construed broadly, to include other variants and embodiments of the invention which may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope and range of equivalents of the invention.