iRobot Roomba

General Info:

The Roomba from iRobot is a cleaning device designed to clean floors in a similar fashion to a vacuum. Both the docking station and the robot itself are made primarily of plastic, metal, and various dyes. It is delivered via Amazon shipping, and once installed it maps out and cleans the room(s) that it can reach. The concept of the Roomba encourages the replacing of menial tasks like cleaning with robotic solutions. Conceptually, you do the set up for the docking station and tell it the areas it is supposed to clean, and then it cleans without input from you again. It discourages cleaning by hand, and the product remains useful as long as your house needs to be cleaned.


Features that promote sustainability

  • The product lasts for a considerably long time, with only the filter needing to be replaced, so from a material standpoint it uses its materials in an efficient manner.
  • The newer Roomba's design allows it to complete various other tasks, like its room mapping ability, however the typical user will only use it for cleaning.
  • iRobot is a member of the RBA (Responsible Business Alliance), designed to increase the efficiency and acknowledge the social/ethical/environmental responsibilities of their products' construction. (3/4 of their contracted manufacturers mention immediately their sustainability in their production ethics) I have included above a link to their manufacturing page on their site.
  • Their use of plastic in a long-term fashion is better than most companies' throw-away approach when it comes to plastics. For example the non-reusable portion of the product, the filters, are typically not plastic*

*Some brands use polyester/fiberglass, others use cotton filters

Features that don't promote sustainability

  • They are made in a variety of locations and shipped around the world, a notable waste of transportation efforts.
  • The filter that the docking station uses must periodically be replaced, a constant use of material for its product.
  • It both requires power to run, and can get stuck/die and need to be returned to its docking station without completing its full task, wasting both the power it wasted while stuck, and the human effort of moving it back to its station.
  • The use of dyes in the making of the product is unnecessary, and serves only for appearances. In the same way as cars or rockets, the paint doesn't affect how well it does it's job, without paint it would be cheaper to produce and waste less dye in its creation.
  • The docking station must be emptied regularly, mitigating some of the "hands-off" ideas their product works for.