Patent application title: Biodegradable Produce Enclosure
Ellery West (Crescent City, CA, US)
Ellery West (Crescent City, CA, US)
Gail West (Crescent City, CA, US)
Gail West (Crescent City, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AB65D138FI
Class name: Receptacles sidewall structure apertured sidewall (e.g., hole, slot, etc.)
Publication date: 2012-05-17
Patent application number: 20120118901
A mesh basket (100) is described that includes a rigid lattice structure
(102) having a fibrous side and bottom. The structure has a plurality of
lattice elements (110) that can collectively define a plurality of
visually non-occluded lattice holes (112), such that a consumer can view
the contents of the basket. Preferably, the apparent collective area of
the holes is at least 40% of the apparent collective area of the lattice
structure (102). The basket (100) can also have a film layer (120)
covering at least a portion of the basket to thereby regulate moisture
within the basket (100).
1. A mesh basket, comprising: a rigid lattice structure having a fibrous
side and bottom, the structure comprising a plurality of lattice elements
that collectively define a plurality of visually non-occluded lattice
holes; and wherein the apparent collective area of the holes is at least
40% of the apparent collective area of the lattice structure.
2. The basket of claim 1, further comprising a film layer covering at least 100 cm2 of the apparent collective area of the lattice holes.
3. The basket of claim 2, wherein the film layer covers the bottom of the lattice structure.
4. The basket of claim 2, wherein the film layer is essentially transparent.
5. The basket of claim 2, wherein the film layer is biodegradable.
6. The basket of claim 1, further comprising a fibrous top removably coupled to the lattice structure.
7. The basket of claim 1, wherein the lattice structure comprises a pulp-molded body.
8. The basket of claim 1, wherein the lattice structure comprises a paperboard.
9. The basket of claim 1, wherein at least one of the lattice holes has an area of at least 4 cm.sup.2.
10. The basket of claim 1, further comprising a window having a surface area of at least 9 cm.sup.2.
11. The basket of claim 1, wherein the lattice structure is configured to withstand a force of 10 pounds without deformation.
12. The basket of claim 1, wherein the apparent collective area of the holes is at least 50% of the apparent collective area of the lattice structure.
 The application claims priority to U.S. provisional patent
application with Ser. No. 61/221188 filed on Jun. 29, 2009. This and all
other extrinsic materials discussed herein are incorporated by reference
in their entirety. Where a definition or use of a term in an incorporated
reference is inconsistent or contrary to the definition of that term
provided herein, the definition of that term provided herein applies and
the definition of that term in the reference does not apply.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The field of the invention is produce enclosures.
 The modern world currently produces massive amounts of waste. Much of the waste comes from plastic and/or metal, which decomposes at a very slow rate. These materials must be recycled, dumped into the oceans or waterways, or deposited into landfills where they will remain for centuries.
 In order to reduce the waste in our ever-filling landfills, it is advantageous to create containers that are biodegradable and/or compostable. However, produce is being increasingly packaged using plastic "clamshell" packaging to solve distribution and retail issues, such as to provide a complete view of the contents to allow consumers to view the contents at the point of sale. Such clamshell packaging is problematic for perishable items such as produce that require a certain range of moisture, as the packaging fails to provide precise control of internal moisture, which often accelerates spoilage of the contents.
 Clamshell packaging (e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 6,845,878 to Hayes) can also be problematic in that consumers increasingly see plastic as ecologically irresponsible and often unwilling to purchase contents in such packaging.
 While plastic baskets are also used such as those used for various types of berries, such packaging is generally not biodegradable and increases the waste in the landfills.
 It is known to have paper produce containers, and exemplary containers are discussed in U.S. Patent Appl. No. 2008/0302808 to Maxwell, Japanese Patent No. 6156469 filed on Nov. 26, 1992, U.S. Pat. No. 4982872 to Avery; and WIPO Patent Appl. No. 2008/076075 to Lim, et al. Although biodegradable for the most part, the paper containers known to Applicant suffer from similar disadvantages as the plastic clamshell packaging.
 Thus, there is still a need for a biodegradable container that allow consumers to view the container's contents from multiple sides at the point of sale, while also precisely controlling the container's internal moisture.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The inventive subject matter provides apparatus, systems and methods in which an enclosure for housing produce or other perishable items comprises a mesh basket having a rigid lattice structure that includes at least a side and a bottom. As used herein, the term "produce" means fruit, vegetables, and other agricultural goods. Other items (e.g., non-edible items) are also contemplated.
 The structure includes a plurality of lattice elements that collectively define a plurality of visually non-occluded lattice holes. As used herein, the term "lattice" includes both regular and irregular patterns. As used herein, the term "non-occluded" means at least 70% of visible light passes through the lattice hole at normal room intensity, and therefore includes slightly opaque, or at least as much light as passes through a non-tinted glass window. For example, the lattice could have a structure comprising squiggle-shaped lattice elements or a structure having a higher density of lattice elements in one area compared with the surrounding area. Alternatively, the lattice could have a regular structure including, for example, a pattern of diamond-shaped or square-shaped lattice elements.
 In preferred embodiments, the apparent collective area of the lattice holes is at least 40%, more preferably, at least 50%, and most preferably, at least 60% of the apparent collective area of the lattice structure. As used herein, the "apparent surface area" of the basket is the outside surface area of the basket's sides, walls, and optional top. Thus, for example, even if the basket had a concave bottom, the entire concave outer surface of the bottom would be included in the basket's apparent surface area. However, the side wall of each lattice hole, as compared to the outside surface of the lattice elements, is not included in the basket's apparent surface area. In addition, the apparent surface area would not include an open top, such as if the basket lacked a lid or other closure.
 Unless the context dictates the contrary, all ranges set forth herein should be interpreted as being inclusive of their endpoints and open-ended ranges should be interpreted to include only commercially practical values. Similarly, all lists of values should be considered as inclusive of intermediate values unless the context indicates the contrary.
 Optionally, the basket can have one or more film layers that preferably cover at least 100 cm2 of the apparent collective area of the lattice holes. Preferably, the film layers are essentially transparent, although translucent film is also contemplated.
 Various objects, features, aspects and advantages of the inventive subject matter will become more apparent from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments, along with the accompanying drawing figures in which like numerals represent like components.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an embodiment of a basket.
 FIGS. 2-4 are top views of alternative embodiments of a basket.
 FIG. 5 is a side view of another embodiment of a basket having a top.
 In FIG. 1, a mesh basket 100 is shown for housing produce. The basket 100 can include a rigid lattice structure 102 forming at least a side 104 and a bottom 106, however, it is contemplated that the side wall 104 can have a different lattice structure than the bottom 106. Optionally, the structure 102 can also comprise a top (not shown).
 Preferred baskets 100 have a structure 102 sufficiently rigid to protect the internal contents of the basket 100 from being crushed, and include a closed bottom 106, an open top 108, and a fibrous side wall 104. It is desirable for the basket 100 to withstand a weight of up to 50 lbs without significant deformation. Preferably, the basket can withstand at least 5 lbs, at least 10 lbs, at least 15 lbs, at least 20 lbs, and more preferably at least 30 lbs of force without significant deformation. As used herein, "fibrous side wall" means a wall comprising a fibrous material as a significant structural constituent. The fibrous wall contemplated herein preferably has at least 2, 5, 10, 20 or even 30 dry weight percent of fibers. Preferably, the fibrous wall has at least 80 or 90 dry weight percent of fibers.
 As used herein "fibrous material" means materials characterized by a plurality of discrete fibers. The filaments can be plant or animal derived, synthetic, or some combination of these. In "plant-derived fibrous materials" the filaments are at least predominantly of plant origin, examples of which include wood, papyrus, rice, ficus, mulberry, fibers, cotton, yucca, sisal, bowstring hemp and New Zealand flax. Paper is generally a fibrous material that is usually made by pressing and de-watering moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood rags, or grasses.
 The basket 100 is advantageously composed of one or more biodegradable materials including, for example, die cut paper, chipboard that has been glued, molded fiber, and other fibrous materials. As used herein, a "biodegradable material" means a material that will break down to at least 90% H2O, CO2, and biomass within a period of six months from the action of naturally occurring micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, algae etc. under favorable conditions. For example, meat, plants, wood, cotton, animal protein, and paper are all deemed herein to be biodegradable.
 The basket 100 has a rectangular cross-section, but it is contemplated that the basket could have a circular, elliptical, or any other commercially suitable horizontal cross-section.
 The lattice structure 102 preferably includes a plurality of lattice elements 110 that compose the structure 102. Each of the lattice elements 110 define at least a portion of a lattice hole 112, and collectively define a plurality of lattice holes 112. Preferred lattice holes 112 are visually non-occlusive. The non-occluded lattice holes advantageously allow the contents of the baskets to be viewed from the top and the bottom without requiring removal of the contents from the basket and without requiring opening of the container when a lid is present.
 In preferred embodiments, the apparent collective area of the lattice holes is at least 20%, more preferably at least 40%, and most preferably at least 50%, of the apparent collective area of the lattice structure.
 As shown in FIG. 1, the lattice elements define a regular pattern comprising a plurality of lattice holes having a rectangular shape. However, it is contemplated that the lattice elements could define other regular patterns including, for example, diamond-shaped holes, circular or ovular holes, or other sized and dimensioned holes, as well as irregular patterns including, for example, those shown in FIGS. 3-4.
 It is contemplated that the lattices structure could vary in number, size and dimension depending on the basket's use and the desired strength and rigidity of the basket. Thus, for example, a basket for strawberries might have lattice holes with smaller dimensions than a basket for apples. In addition, the lattice holes can be of any commercially-suitable size and shape including, for example, circles, squares, and rectangles.
 As shown in FIG. 1, the basket 100 can include a film layer 120 that covers at least a portion, and preferably, at least 100 cm2 of the apparent collective area of the lattice holes, and more preferably, at least the top portion of the basket 100. The film layer 120 is preferably transparent, or at least translucent, such that a consumer can view the contents of the basket 100 through the film layer 120. This is beneficial as the film layer(s) helps prevent insects and other pests from reaching the contents while maintaining a desired level of moisture within the basket 100. The film layer 120 is preferably attached to the basket 100 using an adhesive, although any commercially suitable fastener could be used.
 The film layer 120 preferably comprises a water permeability sufficient to resist water for the expected useful life of the basket 100, and preferably at least 14 days, and more preferably up to 28 days. Further, the film layer 120 may have perforations or holes to allow sufficient air flow to ensure maximal freshness of the intended contents of the basket 100.
 Although film layer 120 could be used to cover the open spaces of the basket 100, the basket 100 could alternatively have additional film layers such that the open spaces of the basket 100 are covered by the film layers. For example, a first film layer could be used to cover a bottom 106 and side 104 of the basket 100. Then once the contents are placed in the basket 100, a second film layer can be provided to enclose the contents within the basket 100. Such additional film layer can be fastened to the basket by an adhesive or other commercially suitable fastener(s). Alternatively or additionally, a rubber band could be used to retain the film layer(s) 120. In this instance, and where other upper limits are not expressly stated, the reader should infer a reasonable upper limit. In this instance, for example, a commercially reasonable upper limit is about ten.
 Preferred film layer(s) are composed of one or more biodegradable materials such that the layer(s) provide for a semi permeable, and at least partially transparent, moisture barrier. This advantageously allows for precise moisture control of the basket's contents. The film layers will depend on the contents of the basket and the external environment to which the basket is subjected. Preferred films include those manufactured by, for example, Maverick®, Bloomer Plastics®, Natural Flexible®, Evlon®, and EarthFirst® PLA.
 At least a portion of the inner surfaces of the basket 100 can advantageously include a permeation barrier material to reduce the transfer rate of the surfaces and thereby retain the rigidity of the basket. As used herein, a statement that a surface "includes a permeation barrier material" means that the surface is treated with an additive that has a transfer rate of less than or equal to 50 μl of water and/or sunflower oil per cm2 per six-month period of time at room temperature and normal atmospheric pressure (STP).
 Preferred permeation barriers comprise vegetable or petroleum wax, vulcanized latex, plant resins, and cellophane. Other suitable permeation barrier materials include those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 7,344,784 to Hodson or US20050130261 to Wils.
 FIG. 2 illustrates another embodiment of a mesh basket 200 having a rigid lattice structure 202 forming at least four sides 204 and a bottom 206. With respect to the remaining numerals in FIG. 2, the same considerations for like components with like numerals of FIG. 1 apply.
 In FIG. 3, an alternative embodiment of a mesh basket 300 is shown having an irregular lattice structure 302. With respect to the remaining numerals in FIG. 3, the same considerations for like components with like numerals of FIG. 1 apply.
 FIG. 4 illustrates yet another embodiment of a mesh basket 400 having an irregular lattice structure 402 composed of strings 410, which form a plurality of lattice holes 412. With respect to the remaining numerals in FIG. 4, the same considerations for like components with like numerals of FIG. 1 apply.
 FIG. 5 illustrates yet another embodiment of a mesh basket 500 having a top 530 with a second lattice structure 532 having a plurality of lattice holes 534. Although the lattice structure 502 of the mesh basket 500 is the same as the lattice structure 532 of the top 530, it is also contemplated that the lattice structures 502 and 532 could be different. The top can have a clamshell configuration or other commercially suitable configurations. With respect to the remaining numerals in FIG. 5, the same considerations for like components with like numerals of FIG. 1 apply.
 It should be apparent to those skilled in the art that many more modifications besides those already described are possible without departing from the inventive concepts herein. The inventive subject matter, therefore, is not to be restricted except in the spirit of the appended claims. Moreover, in interpreting both the specification and the claims, all terms should be interpreted in the broadest possible manner consistent with the context. In particular, the terms "comprises" and "comprising" should be interpreted as referring to elements, components, or steps in a non-exclusive manner, indicating that the referenced elements, components, or steps may be present, or utilized, or combined with other elements, components, or steps that are not expressly referenced. Where the specification claims refers to at least one of something selected from the group consisting of A, B, C . . . and N, the text should be interpreted as requiring only one element from the group, not A plus N, or B plus N, etc.
Patent applications by Ellery West, Crescent City, CA US
Patent applications by Gail West, Crescent City, CA US
Patent applications in class Apertured sidewall (e.g., hole, slot, etc.)
Patent applications in all subclasses Apertured sidewall (e.g., hole, slot, etc.)