When I think about the paraphernalia of lobstermen, I think of wooden products: wood traps, wood crates, wood buoys.
But thanks to Spiros Tourkakis, now I'll think about plastics, too.
The Boston Business Journal published an excellent feature story last week about how Tourkakis changed the lobster industry 25 years ago by inventing a better plastic shipping container.
Lobsters are sold by the pound, as anyone who's ever seen the words "market price" on a fancy menu knows. And back in the days when the industry used wooden crates, that meant that trading was complicated and expensive.
"The [wood] crates were all slightly different, and heavier when wet, so standard procedure to weigh a shipment was to take all the lobsters out of each crate, weigh the crate, put them all back in, and weigh it again," the Business Journal reported.
"The process took a long time, led to injuries from splinters and nails, and the extra handling of all those lobsters caused more of them to die and go to waste."
Tourkakis turned to plastic. According to the story, it took him a few months of working with plastic manufacturers to create a plastic crate that outperformed the wooden containers in several important ways.
Within four years, Tourkakis' crates became the industry standard. Since then, they've saved the industry billions of dollars.
I was pleasantly surprised that the story names the plastics company that Tourkakis worked with (IPL Plastics) and the reporter tracked down Eric Fredrickson, a former market development manager who helped develop the crate.