US 20060254948 A1
Some embodiments relate to nestable containers having a reversibly deformable covering that is reversibly deformable from a covering position to a storage position, wherein the covering has a projected surface area in the storage position that is less than a projected surface area of the closure in the covering position such that the covering is storable inside the container while other containers of identical size and shape are nested in the container. The covering may include a fastener that, when fastened, prevents movement of the covering from the storage position to the covering position. And the covering and/or container may include a gasket for sealing.
2. A storage apparatus having a container with an opening and a covering reversibly deformable between a storage position and a covering position for covering the opening, the apparatus comprising:
a storage container having an opening and being nestable with other containers of identical size and shape,
a reversibly deformable covering for forming a substantially water-tight seal with the opening in a covering position, the covering being detachable from the container and reversibly deformable from the covering position to a storage position,
wherein the covering has a projected surface area in the storage position that is less than a projected surface area of the covering in the covering position such that the covering is storable entirely within the container while other containers of identical size and shape are nested in the container, and
wherein the covering comprises a reversibly fastenable fastener that, when fastened, prevents movement of the covering from the storage position to the covering position.
3. The apparatus of
4. The apparatus of
5. The apparatus of
6. The apparatus of
7. The apparatus of
8. A storage device comprising:
a reusable, nestable container and a reusable, detachable cover for covering the container to form a reversible and substantially water-tight seal between the cover and the container, with the cover comprising a first portion comprising rigid plastic joined to a second portion comprising rigid plastic by a reversibly bendable joint, and with the cover being bendable at the bendable joint to fit entirely within a volume defined by filling the container about 40% full of water;
wherein the device further comprises a gasket that participates in the seal when the cover is covering the container.
9. The device of
10. The device of
11. The device of
12. The device of claim 111 wherein the gasket is not a complete ring.
This application claims priority to U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 60/678,146, filed May 5, 2005 and U.S. Patent Ser. No. 60/741,154 filed Dec. 1, 2005, each of which are hereby incorporated by reference herein.
This application hereby incorporates by reference herein U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/974,553, filed Oct. 27, 2004, U.S. patent Ser. No. 11/083,870 filed Mar. 18, 20005, and U.S. patent Ser. No. 11/083,871 filed Mar. 18, 2005, each of which are hereby incorporated by reference herein to the extent they do not contradict the explicit disclosure of this patent application.
The technical field is related to nestable containers having a covering.
Food storage containers are popularly used to store food that is left over after a meal. The food is packed into the storage container, sealed, and placed into a refrigerator. Such food containers may be reusable and made of plastic and have a lid.
Many consumers own a variety of types of reusable food containers. Each type has its own lid. As a result, there is often a need to search through a variety of lids and containers to identify ones that match. The searching process is often inconvenient and frustrating. One solution to this problem is to store the containers with the coverings that fit them; as described herein, coverings may be made that are placed inside the containers while they are nested—thus the coverings and containers are not separated and are easily located. In certain embodiments, coverings may be bent into a shape small enough to fit into the containers, e.g., by using a bendable material to make the covers, or to join unbendable halves of the covers by a bendable joint, e.g., a hinge or a flexible material that can be reversibly bent to fold the cover in half for storage and unbent for use as a covering.
Some embodiments have fasteners on the covers to help keep the covers folded into a compact shape. Users fold these covers and then engage a fastener that keeps the covering closed, in case the covering has some bias making it tend to spring open.
Some embodiments have extra sealing features such as a gasket or a soft material strategically placed to stop potential leaks. Depending upon the particular design of a cover-and-lid system, a point that can tend to leak is located where a hinge on a cover intersects a rim of the container. Some embodiments place a gasket at this point, such as a piece of material that is relatively soft and/or resilient compared to the container and/or covering.
Some embodiments include making and using a storage device comprising a reusable, nestable container and a reusable, detachable cover for covering the container, with the detachable cover comprising a reversible fastener and a first portion joined to a second portion by a reversibly bendable joint, wherein the first portion is reversibly fastenable to the second portion by the fastener when the bendable joint is bent and the cover is detached from the container.
And some embodiments include making and using a storage device comprising a reusable, nestable container and a reusable, detachable cover for covering the container, with the cover comprising a first portion joined to a second portion by a reversibly bendable joint, and with the cover being bendable at the bendable joint to fit within a volume defined by filling the container about 40% full of water, wherein the cover comprises a gasket for forming a reversible seal with the container.
And some embodiments include making and using a storage device comprising a reusable, nestable container and a reusable, detachable cover for covering the container, with the cover comprising a first portion joined to a second portion by a reversibly bendable joint, and with the cover being bendable at the bendable joint to fit within a volume defined by filling the container about 40% full of water, wherein the container comprises a rim that defines an opening that is covered by the cover and a sealing member projects from the rim to form a seal with the cover at a point where the bendable joint intersects the rim, and the sealing member does not extend around the entirety of the rim.
Some embodiments are containers having lids that can be bent into a storage shape that allows the lids to be stored inside the containers while the containers are nested with each other. This method of storage conveniently keeps the containers and coverings together. A fastener may be used to keep the covering in the storage shape. The coverings and/or containers may be equipped with gaskets to enhance the sealing of the container and covering with each other. Certain embodiments are directed to bending the coverings at bendable joints to move the coverings into the storage position or shape.
A reversibly bendable joint allows coverings to be bent into a different shape by bending the joint. In some cases the bendable joint is a hinge, while in other cases it is merely a flexible, reversibly deformable material that folds without making a crease. The bendable joint joins at least two portions of the covering to each other. The two portions may be clearly distinct from the joint, as in the case wherein two rigid materials are joined by a reversibly deformable thermoplastic elastomer. In other cases the bendable joint is a living hinge that is made by creating a relatively thin plastic member that is continuous with the portions that it joins. A nonreversibly bendable joint or material is essentially not restorable to its original state after bending, e.g., a piece of plastic that stretches without returning to its original shape.
A covering's reversibly bendable joint may be, for example, a hinge or a living hinge. A living hinge is typically formed by creating a thin portion of a plastic in a relatively thicker plastic member. The living hinge allows for repeated folding and unfolding. Polypropylene and certain other engineering plastics are particularly suited to the formation of living hinges. Various hinges may be used, including those referred to as butt, door, strap, concealed, take-apart & two-pin hinges. Other hinge types are, for example: ball-and-socket, and mortise-and-tenon. Additional hinges are, for example: projection hinge, parliament hinge, tee hinge, and bands & gudgeons.
And a reversibly bendable joint may be made, for example, from at least one piece of a flexible material that joins two other members, or portions of the covering, that are to be pivoted relative to each other. Reversibly bendable joints may be made with materials that are elastic, for example, from natural or synthetic rubbers, rubbery materials, and many thermoplastic elastomers. Examples of materials include neoprene, nitrile, polyisoprenes, fluoroelastomers, ethylene/acrylics, silicones, butyl rubbers, SBR, EPDM, VITON, combinations and derivatives thereof, and other materials, e.g., as in the Handbook of Plastics and Elastomers. Liquid silicone rubbers, and silicone rubbers in general, are useful materials that are highly elastic, food-compatible, and suitable in a range of temperatures from freezing to boiling. Other materials that may be suitable, depending upon specific designs and uses, are DYNAFLEX, SANTOPRENE, KRAYTON, ENGAGE, ESTANE, and DOW CORNING SILASTIC. These materials are all readily available from brokers in industries that serve these arts.
Two or more portions of a covering may be joined by an elastic portion that serves as a bendable joint. The portions may be essentially rigid materials or may be other elastic materials. The covering may be removed from the container, folded by bending the bendable, and placed into the container, which may then be nested.
Some embodiments herein are directed to reversibly deformable closures (e.g., coverings) that can be positioned between the containers while the containers are nested. The closures are in a first position while covering the containers, and are reversibly deformed to another position when stored in or on the containers, so that the containers may be nested with each other. The closures may then be restored to the covering position. Reversible deformation thus refers to a change in shape that is reversible, and may be used to refer to the transition from a covering position to a storage position, or vice versa. Coverings described herein as having a bendable joint are reversibly deformable coverings.
Embodiments include containers associated with a reversibly deformable closure that can be positioned to cover the container and deformed to fit inside the container. Then the containers may be nested, each with a closure still associated with them. The reversible deformation may be accomplished, e.g., by using an elastic material or a rigid material having a telescoping, stacked, folded, layered, and/or corrugated structure. And closures can be prepared that are deformed to be stored on the bottom of the container so as not to interfere with container nesting when not in use, but can be positioned to fit over the top of the container.
Embodiments include an apparatus having containers (e.g., for food storage) and closures for the containers, the storage apparatus comprising a plurality of nested containers each having an opening; and, a plurality of reversibly deformable closures for covering the openings, wherein the containers are nestable with each other with one of the closures disposed between each nested container, and the openings each have the same dimensions. A reversibly deformable closure may have at least a portion that is an elastic material for reversibly deforming the closure, or the reversibly deformable closures may be made essentially of elastic materials. A surface area of the reversibly deformable closure may be increased by at least about 25% or 100% when the closure is disposed over an opening compared to the surface area of the closure in a resting position.
A reversibly deformable closure may have a fold, a bendable joint, or corrugations for reversibly deforming the closure, and may further have a detent, or could have a combination thereof. The reversibly deformable closures may include a nondeformable portion. Similarly, methods for using such apparatuses are included, e.g., a method of storing a plurality of storage containers, the method comprising nesting the plurality of containers with each other with a reversibly deformable closure disposed between the plurality of containers, wherein the plurality of containers each comprise an opening of the same dimension and the reversibly deformable closure may be used to cover the opening.
The coverings may interact with containers to make a substantial seal so that contents of the containers are substantially isolated within the containers. Various structures may be incorporated in the coverings and containers to accomplish a substantial sealing. Various fasteners and seals may be used to join a closure to a container. Further, the degree of sealing may be controlled and varied, so that some seals are water tight while others merely provide a snug seating arrangement to generally isolate the container contents from the outside environment. For example, flanges, grooves, beads, and various means for establishing a seal between a container and a closure, as known to persons in these arts, may be used. In some embodiments, the covering has a slight undercut that creates a small ridge at the edge of the cover; when forced over the container rim, the ridge provides resistance when the cover is removed.
In some embodiments, the covering has a fastener that, when fastened, prevents movement of the covering from the storage position to the covering position. The covering may include a part of, or the entirety of, the fastener, which may have one or more members. In one embodiment, a fastener has a first and a second member that fasten to each other; these may be placed on opposite sides of covering, e.g., on opposite sides of a bendable joint. A user bends the covering to fasten the fastener members to each other to place the covering in a storage position, and then stores the covering. In some embodiments, the first and second members are a male and a female member, e.g., a cavity and a tenon, a post and an invagination, two members of a snap, a tongue and a groove, or a male member that snap-fits into a female member. In other embodiments, the fist member and the second member both project outwardly from the covering and fasten to each other by a friction fit, an interference, or by use of interacting ridges or tabs. The fastener members may both be deployed, for example, on top of a cover (e.g.,
Some embodiments are a container that is dimensioned to provide contact with a covering that is in a folded, storage position such that the interior walls of the container keep the covering closed in the storage position. The contact may be provided by frictional forces, for instance, by sizing the interior of the container so that the walls contact the covering when the covering is disposed inside the container. The contact may, alternatively, be provided by placing a rib or other structure on the container interior so that the cover must be forced past the rib, which is deep enough into the container to prevent the covering from opening.
Gaskets may be employed between a closure and a container. In general, a gasket provides a mechanical seal that serves to fill the space between two objects to prevent leakage between the two objects, and typically is under at least mild compression to deform the gasket. The gasket may be a complete circle, e.g., an O-ring, or merely a strategically placed material that contributes to sealing. An elastic or a resilient material is preferred for the gasket so that it may be deformed at least slightly during sealing to assure a high quality seal. For example, silicones, thermoplastic elastomers, KRAYTON, DYNAFLEX, ENGAGE, or SANTOPRENE are suitable.
The gasket may be disposed on the covering, on the container, or both. Some gaskets may advantageously be placed at a point where a hinge of a covering intersects a rim of the container. For instance, point 1218 in
A latch may be used in combination with the gasket to provide a further enhanced seal. For instance, a latch may be placed near a point where a hinge or bendable joint intersects a rim of a container, with the latch being used to provide extra compressive force on a gasket to create a seal.
In some embodiments, latching mechanisms may be employed, e.g., to enhance a seal between a closure and a container, with or without the involvement of a gasket.
And, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,793,096 explains how latches using locking wings are integrally formed at edges of the lid, so that the wings can be pivoted upward and downward. Flange portions are formed on upper end outer surfaces of sidewalls of the case, so that the locking wings are engaged with the flange portions to be maintained in a locked state. An engaging groove is defined on a lower surface of each flange portion. Each locking wing has an elastic engaging part which is formed to be flexed and cover the lower surface of the flange portion when the corresponding locking wing is pivoted downward, and engaging protuberances which are horizontally formed on an upper surface of the elastic engaging part to be engaged with the engaging groove of the flange portion while elastically deforming the elastic engaging part.
Alternatively, a combination of latch(es) and living hinges may be used to affix a covering to a container, e.g., a closure affixed to a container by a living hinge with latch(es) to provide additional sealing action.
A closure may be prepared that is folded in a storage position so that it has a relatively small projected area relative to its unfolded state. Thus a user may fold a closure, dispose it in or under a container, and nest the container with other containers of a similar or substantially identical size and shape. Then the closure may be unfolded and used as a lid for the container. Or, for example, a closure may be prepared that is collapsed in a storage position so that it occupies a relatively small volume relative to its uncollapsed state. Thus a user may expand the closure, dispose it in or under a container, and nest the container with other containers of a similar or substantially identical size and shape. Then the closure may be expanded and used as a lid for the container.
A cover that is stored between nested containers may be designed to occupy a specified height. The height of a container would be the vertical distance between a cover and an opposing bottom of the container. The height of a cover would be measured parallel to the height of the container when the cover is disposed inside the container. Thus a cover may be made so that, when folded and placed approximately parallel to the bottom of the container, it has a height that is less than about 50%, 40%, 33%, 20%, 10%, or less than 10% of the container's height; a person of ordinary skill in these arts will appreciate that all ranges and values from more than 0% to less than 50% are intended although they are not explicitly set forth. The terms length, width, and height may be used to refer to certain dimensions of the covers and containers. Thus the height of a cover may be compared to the depth (or “height”) of a container. When covers are made solely out of elastomeric materials, the covers may be quite thin relative to the container depth. When the cover is made of relatively rigid materials, the height of the cover is typically greater. A polypropylene cover with a living hinge has been made with a height of about 0.25 inches; this cover can be made with a length and width to accommodate a wide variety of containers. In some embodiments, non-identical containers are nested with each other, with covers between them. For example, containers of different heights are made that are nestable with each other. Then the coverings for at least one of the containers are disposed between them for storage.
One measure of the change in the state of a closure between two positions is the change in surface area. A measurement of a surface area is accomplished by adding up the entire area of the surface, and is not to be confused with the projected surface area of an object. For example, a stretchable rubber sheet increases its surface area when it is stretched. In contrast, an essentially unstretchable material bounded by an elastic band of rubber material can have its projected area changed by stretching the band over an object, but the band's stretching essentially does not change the surface area of the object because the unstretchable material remains the same size. A projected surface area is the projection of an object onto a two-dimensional surface. For example, a corrugated closure has substantially no change in its surface area as the corrugations are flattened, but the projected surface area is changed. An embodiment is a storage device having a closure and a container comprising an opening, with the closure being securable over the opening and comprising a reversibly deformable portion having a surface area or a projected surface area that is increased by at least about 15%, e.g., by at least about 25%, by at least about 50%, or by at least about 100%, when the closure is secured over the opening.
Closures may be made to have a surface area or projected surface area that is increased when placed over an opening of a container. The increase of the surface area or projected surface area may be, for example, at least about 5%, e.g., at least about 15%, at least about 25%, at least about 50% and at least about 100%. Ranges of increased surface area may be, e.g., 5%-1000%, and all ranges therebetween, e.g., 5%-500%, and 15%-350%; persons of ordinary skill in these arts will immediately appreciate that all values and ranges between the explicitly stated ranges are contemplated. Certain embodiments include containers with a volume in the range between about 1 ounce and about 512 ounces, and coverings or containers made of plastic that is at least about one sixteenth of an inch thick.
Embodiments of closures include those having a surface area of any size suitable for the intended container. For example, the closure, when placed in a position to cover an opening, may have a surface area that is a range of about 1 to about 1,000 square inches, including all ranges therewithin, e.g., about 4 to about 64 square inches, about 9 to about 36 square inches, and about 9 to about 36 square inches; persons of ordinary skill in these arts will immediately appreciate that all values and ranges between the explicitly stated ranges are contemplated.
Embodiments include a container that comprises a nestable shape wherein a plurality of the containers occupy less space when nested as compared to the space occupied when the plurality of containers are not nested. Some nestable containers have openings that receive the bottom of another container, e.g., a nested stack of reusable/disposable food containers that are commonly available at retail stores. The nesting may be essentially complete or partially complete. Essentially complete refers to containers that are nested so that the interior volume of one container is essentially filled by another. Partially complete refers to nesting wherein a first container fits inside a second container but leaves a portion of the second container's interior volume unfilled, e.g. between about 1% and about 75% of the volume of the container (i.e., 99% to 25% of the container is filled); persons of ordinary skill in these arts will immediately appreciate that all values and ranges between the explicitly stated range are contemplated.
Certain embodiments are directed to nestable containers having reversibly deformable coverings that can fit within a volume that is defined by a specified portion of the interior space of the container. A container's interior space is all the space within its interior walls when the container is empty and resting on its bottom surface: for example, an empty cylinder defines a cylindrical interior space, even if the cylinder has holes in it. The bottom 50% of that interior space is defined by pouring an imaginary fluid into the interior space and observing the shape that the fluid assumes. The bottom surface is usually readily known to the artisan when considering the shape and intended use of the container, is usually opposing the opening covered by a lid of the container, and is usually the surface that supports the container when the container is filled to its maximum capacity without its lid on.
In some embodiments, a volume is specified by imagining that fluid is literally put into the container when the container is on a level surface without its lid in place. The water flows into the interior space of the container and assumes its shape. In such embodiments, the volume is defined by the effect that would be produced by literally putting water into the container, so that containers that do not hold water are excluded. So a container with a hole in its bottom would not be fillable with water.
It is useful to define the interior space of a container, for instance, when describing coverings that fit inside the container. Certain embodiments are directed to a covering for a container that fits in (would be contained by) a volume defined by the bottom about 1%-about 50% of the interior space of a container or defined by filling a container about 1%-about 50% full of water; artisans will understand that all ranges and values within these explicitly stated bounds are contemplated. Thus some covers will rest completely on a bottom of a container when placed inside, while other can stay within the volume defined by, e.g., 50% full of water, and have portions resting on the walls of the container.
Some embodiments are food storage containers for home use, e.g., for meal leftovers. Although food storage containers for home use have a multiplicity of uses that are not limited to storage of food or use at a home, such containers are made to comply with certain requirements for food safety. Some embodiments are directed to using food-grade materials, microwaveable materials, materials resistant to deformation in the conditions typically encountered in automatic dishwashers (top shelf and/or bottom shelf), freezable materials, materials for use in a household oven, and/or materials that do not give off harmful substances in normal use.
Moreover, food storage containers for home use have limited dimensions so that a plurality of them may be accommodated within a home storage space, e.g., a refrigerator or pantry. Sizes and suitable ranges of sizes are may be described volumetrically in terms of the number of ounces of water that they hold: from about one ounce to about 512 ounces, and every size therebetween, every range of sizes therebetween, and ranges from any size therebetween to almost zero. Such sizes therefore include, for example: about one half-pint, about one pint, about one quart, about two quarts, and about one gallon. Such ranges therefore include, for example, from about one quarter pint to about one gallon or to about two quarts. Such ranges therefore include, for example about 5 ounces to about 20 ounces.
Various features may be incorporated into containers for food uses. For example, a vent for microwaving may be present on a cover or a container to allow gas from the container interior to escape after being heated. And, for example, indicia for a day of the week may be added, e.g., as semispherical buttons or bulges on a cover that may be depressed to indicate a day of the week, or other date.
Other embodiments are directed to containers for general purpose storage. While food grade plastics may advantageously be used to provide for many potential uses, other materials may be used, e.g., non food-grade engineering plastics, or non-plastics. Such containers may be provide in a range of sizes, e.g., from 8 ounces to 50 gallons, or even more. A category of general purpose containers familiar to retail shoppers are in the range of 10-30 gallons, e.g., about 1 or 2 feet on a side, stackable when covered, with built-in covers and snap-on lids. Containers may have detachable covers that are storable on the sides or bottom of the containers, as described herein, or may have detachable covers that are stored inside the containers while the containers are nested with each other. The association between the covers and the containers advantageously minimizes logistical challenges for sellers that must shelve both the containers and covers. For example, large retailers such as KMART, WALMART, and TARGET carry general purpose storage containers that are shelved in proximity to their covers. The user must find a suitable cover and match it to the container, and the retailer must stock the cover and the container separately on the shelves.
Examples of containers include containers used for general purpose storage. Some containers are plastic, while others are, e.g., metal, steel, glass, tempered glass, PYREX-style glass, wood, wood-plastic composites. Indeed, the use of closures disposable between nesting containers is applicable to wide varieties of containers. Reversible expandable coverings may be plastic or other materials, e.g., metal, steel, glass, tempered glass, PYREX-style glass, wood, wood-plastic composites. General purpose storage containers may be, for example, sealing, non-sealing, or water-tight-sealing. They may be equipped with the various features described herein, e.g., gaskets, latches, handles (inset into the container walls or projecting from the walls), vents, date indicia, detents, elastomeric portions.
In one embodiment, a retail display unit is provided with a plurality of nested or nestable containers that have cover stored inside and/or under each container and/or between containers. In use, for example, a consumer chooses a container, removes the container from the shelf or other display unit, and finds the cover inside or otherwise attached to the container. The consumer may take the container from a nested stack of containers. Or, for example, a retailer may place a set of nested containers that each have a covering associated with the container on a support surface of a display unit, e.g., a shelf, rack, or table for retail display, with the cover-container association being a cover place under each container, a cover placed inside each unit, or at least some of the covers being placed between the containers while they are nested.
In another embodiment, a storage area is used to store a plurality of nested or nestable containers that have a cover stored inside and/or under each container and/or between containers. In use, for example, a user chooses a container, removes the container from the storage area, and finds the cover inside or otherwise attached to the container. The user may take the container from a nested stack of containers. Or, for example, a user may place a set of nested containers that each have a covering associated with the container on a storage unit, e.g., a shelf, rack, or table for storage, with the cover-container association being a cover place under each container, a cover placed inside each unit, or at least some of the covers being placed between the containers while they are nested. For example, warehousing operations, order fulfillment centers, and other business storage applications will benefit from the easy association of the lids and containers. The advantages of such a process are particularly realized when a variety of containers and coverings are used.
Industrial containers are also contemplated. Many containers are known for various shipping, storage, warehousing, picking, and packing purposes. The use of foldable or otherwise reversibly expandable coverings is generally applicable to containers in a wide variety of circumstances. The container/closure combinations may be sold with or without other contents. Various items may be placed in the containers, including food (for human or pet consumption), drink, crafts, office supplies, and industrial goods.
Container is a term that includes a container that fully encloses a space, or partially encloses a space. Certain embodiments involve the use of containers that have a shape that encloses a space on all sides except for an opening that is to be covered by a covering. A closure refers to a structure or device designed to close off the opening of a container and prevent loss of its contents. Closures may involve various means of securing the closure to the container, e.g., fasteners, friction fit, threads, ribs, force-fit, and other means known to artisans in these fields. The term cover or covering refers to a closure for the largest opening in a container. Containers, besides having an opening for the primary covering, may further have other openings, including sealable openings. An example of a sealable opening is an opening in the container intended to be sealed with a cap or bung. For example, certain container embodiments may be equipped with sealable microwave vents. An example of a non-sealable opening is a hole in a container that is not intended to be sealed, so as to provide drainage and/or ventilation of the crate contents, e.g., holes in a produce crate.
Containers, closures, and sections of the containers may be assembled from materials that are used for conventional containers. Such materials include, for example, woods, plastics, ceramics, cloths, textiles, fabrics, weaves, and metals. Plastics include, for example, polyethylene, polycarbonate, polyvinylchloride, high density polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, polytetrafluoroethylene, polyurethane, silicones, and various elastomers. Containers for food storage should be made of food grade materials that do not undesirably contaminate the food with undesirable substances.
In some embodiments, the cover and the nestable container are made of a class of material(s) that consist essentially of polyethylene, polycarbonate, polypropylene, polyurethane, thermoplastic elastomer, or a combination thereof. Alternatively, such container may be made of at least about 50%, 70%, 80%, 90%, or 95% w/w of particular materials, e.g., polyethylene, polycarbonate, polypropylene, polyurethane, thermoplastic elastomer, or a combination thereof. One reason for using these materials in the weight or combination specified is to make a reusable container.
The containers and coverings may be reusable. Reusable refers to a structure that allows a user to use a container to hold items a first time, to place empty containers into a storage position, and to again use the container to store an item. A variety of single-use food containers are known that are intended to be used once, and thrown away. Makers and users of these products can distinguish between reusable and disposable containers. Moreover, some embodiments are a reusable container and/or a lid made of materials that do not include paper, or have less than 50%, 75%, or 90% paper by weight. The term paper is intended to include, for example, materials processed to include wood or plant portions.
Containers include rigid containers. A rigid container essentially maintains its shape when items are placed within it; for example, a bucket, a carton, a milk jug, or a box. A rigid container does not typically to tend to conform its shape to accommodate the items placed within it. A rigid container may have an elastic portion but still retain its classification as a rigid container because the elastic member does not typically conform to the items within it, even though the elastic member may sometimes bend or be displaced. For example, many consumers are familiar with plastic food storage bags dispensed from rolls that are not shape stable, e.g., those bags popularly referred to as sandwich bags or freezer bags.
In some embodiments, the closure may be stored on the bottom or a side of the container without occluding the opening. In general, an increase in surface area in a reversibly deformable covering is associated with convenience in storage, since a small covering may be conveniently stored. This increase, however, is, in general, often offset by an increased force for use, which is less convenient for a user. Further, an increase in elasticity is often accompanied by changes to other material properties, such as hardness, tackiness, and toughness. The balancing of these factors can be achieved by using design principles described herein in association with consideration of the properties of the materials that are chosen.
Sets of containers having hinged closures and/or hingedly attached closures (e.g., coverings) may be assembled. The closures may be disposed between the containers while the containers are nested with each other. The number of containers in such a set may be, e.g., at least 2, at least 3, at least 4, or at least 5. Or, for example, the number of such containers may be between 2 and 10, or between, e.g., 3 and 8. The set may have one closure per container. Alternatively, the number of closures may be more or less than the number of containers, e.g., as when providing a closures that fits many sizes of containers. The containers may be similar to each other in size and shape, e.g., essentially identical, or essentially identical for nesting purposes. The containers may all have openings that are essentially the same size, e.g., having the same dimensions, e.g., length, width, or diameter. Alternatively, variously sized containers may be used in the set. The closures may be essentially identical to each other, e.g., having essentially the same dimensions, e.g., length, width, or diameter, or may be variously sized. Sets of nested containers may be packaged with the containers in a nested position. Many types of packaging may be used, e.g., cardboard or shrink-wrap.
In certain embodiments, a storage apparatus may have a plurality of containers and coverings, e.g., two, three, four, five, six, or between 3 and 20, or more. The coverings and containers may be joined by hinges. The containers may have openings defined by sides joined to a bottom 120.
A covering may be made with an upper portion joined at about 90 degrees to a side member, e.g., as shown in
Embodiments with various features have been described herein. Other embodiments may combine these features, which are intended to be mixed-and-matched as suitable for the particular embodiment. These embodiments are intended to convey the spirit of the invention so that persons of ordinary skill in the art can practice the invention in its full scope without being limited to the particular embodiments herein. Further, all publications and patent applications described herein are hereby incorporated herein by reference.