NO ONE'S LEFT HOLDING THE BAG!
Merriam Park Post - September 2, 1998
by Mat Hollinshead
St. Paul’s urban forest lost some 1200 trees this summer, but there’s still more than enough to provide the timeless fall ritual of leaf raking, stuffing and disposal.
Trouble is, there’s nothing more formless than a pile of leaves or more spineless than a plastic leaf bag.
When he retired three years ago, long-time Merriam Park Summit Avenue resident John Judge became an enthusiastic groundskeeper. "It was a real wake-up call," he says.
When you’re in your 70s, he says, even a leaf bag can be a challenge. In just a few days, you can go. to Grand Ace Hardware and selected similar stores and buy a rigid, four-sided corrugated black plastic sleeve that slips into a large leaf bag, converting it temporarily into a rigid waste container. When you’ve finished filling it, pull the sleeve out—it has no bottom—tie off the bag, and take it to the neighborhood compost site.
For cities that require paper leaf bags (not St. Paul) there will a three- sided version, in white instead of black.
"At first I thought I could just put leaves onto a 10’ by 12’ plastic sheet and drag it to the compost pile," says Judge, "but, believe me, damp leaves are heavy and dragging 150 pounds is a job for a strong young man." Judge is a trim 74, but even in the best of health at that age, it can be risky.
The second spring into retirement, there were some leaves still on from the previous fall. Judge gave up on plastic sheets in favor of bags, but that was no joy, either.
So he found a corrugated box in the garage. He pried open and taped back the flaps of the bottom making the box into a tube, inserted it into the 39-gallon leaf bag, set the bag upright and filled it, and pulled the box out.
It seemed like perfect answer, until Florence Judge found out. The box belonged to an expensive lamp she was planning on returning.
"Now I was $350 into a research and development project," says John.
There was another problem. The $350 paper carton wasn’t’ waterproof, and soon fell apart as spring clean-up proceeded.
As the hardware store, there were a couple of types of bag holders but neither seemed easy to use. John knew a Minneapolis manufacturer producing a corrugated plastic tote box for the U.S. Postal System.
"I purchased a large 4’ X 8’ sheet cut and scored a 15" X 15" X 30" tube and sealed the tube using duct tape. Thus was born the first ‘Bag Em All®,"’ he says. He used it for two seasons, keeping a list of possible improvements.
Rounded corners would prevent tearing leaf bags. Hand holds would allow moving bags to leaf piles, instead be of the reverse. Notches would provide tuck places for the edges of the leaf bag —"bag locks"—to prevent the bags from slipping off the form. The form’s size would have to fit the size of all common leaf bags—33, 39 & 45 gallon. The form should fold up for compact storage. The plastic had to be completely waterproof. And finally, the gage of the plastic had to be strong enough to protect the bag from punctures by small branches and twigs.
Judge took the modified model to Grand Ace Hardware for feedback. Owner Jim Solin was, very encouraging and offered several useful functional suggestions and to product marketing.
"Now that the mechanics and design were locked in, we were ready for the most costly and demanding, and - by far to me the most unfamiliar, challenges," says John: patent and trademark research and application; market research; pricing; business and marketing plans; advertising; label; display packaging; and sales and distribution.
"The use of the lamp box has turned into a two-and-a-half year project, and, the $350 lamp is one of the smallest investments in it."
The first production run is in process, and the Bag Em All® should be in local stores by mid-month.
PERFECT FOR YARDWORK, CLEANING THE BASEMENT, PACKING UP CLOTHES AND MORE!
Judge Products, Inc.
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