Creating Wonders

Sonal Shukla’s start-up, econscious, reduces plastic waste pollution through an innovative recycling model.

By Zahoor Hussain Bhat

July 2023

Creating Wonders

econscious collects and processes post-industrial plastic waste into products of utility and decor. (Photograph courtesy Sonal Shukla)

The harmful impact of plastic on the environment is undeniable. India produces 3.4 million tons of plastic waste annually, of which only 30 percent is recycled, according to a report by the Marico Innovation Foundation. The remaining plastic waste is either sent to landfills or aquatic dumps.

The most viable solution to mitigate the harmful impact of plastic waste is sustainable recycling. This is the goal of econscious, a New Delhi-based start-up co-founded by engineers and Nexus alumni Sonal Shukla and Vaibhav Verma. They create ecofriendly products for gifting, decor and public utility through their waste collection and recycling model.

Shukla recently spoke to SPAN magazine, on the sidelines of the “We The People For Climate Action Festival” at American Center New Delhi.

Excerpts from the interview.

What led you to become an entrepreneur?

Our journey as entrepreneurs began three years ago. Vaibhav and I crossed paths during our M.Tech days and discovered our shared interest in the environment.

I have an electronics and communication background. Though I enjoyed my field, I did not find my monotonous daily routine fulfilling enough. Luckily, Vaibhav was pursuing a master’s degree in environmental engineering, which inspired us to venture into the sustainability sector for our start-up.

Shifting from my established field to start something of my own was a huge leap of faith. I knew that this journey would require courage, but I was ready to chase my passion for creating positive change in the world.

What inspired you to launch econscious? How is it different from other start-ups in this sector?

The journey of econscious began during a memorable mountain trip where we saw the beautiful scenery tarnished by plastic waste. This was just before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it left a deep impression on us. Our shared passion for the environment led us to conversations about sustainability and zero-waste management. Within three months we had a basic plan for econscious. In November 2020, we launched our first product.

At econscious, we collect and process post-industrial plastic waste into products of utility and decor. Our product range includes park benches, dustbins, planters and gifting products. Our products are all made from recycled plastic and have a unique look. We also let our customers know about the impact of their choice on the environment. Our USP is the customizations that we offer our clients.

How important is plastic recycling? How can people minimize the impact of plastic on the environment?

Plastic recycling plays a vital role as the complete elimination of plastic is currently not feasible. However, we can take steps to reduce usage and dispose of it responsibly. Recycling helps conserve resources, save energy and prevent pollution. To minimize plastic’s impact on the environment, here’s what one can do:

  • Use less single-use plastic and choose reusable options.
  • Separate plastic waste and follow local recycling guidelines.
  • Opt for ecofriendly materials like paper, glass or biodegradable plastics.
  • Spread awareness about plastic recycling and encourage sustainable choices.
  • Participate in cleanup events, back organizations working on plastic waste, and advocate for stricter regulations.

How successful have you been so far in your mission to promote sustainability?

We have made significant progress in promoting sustainability through econscious. We have recycled over 150,000 kg of plastic waste.

We have created jobs for individuals involved in plastic waste management, which also helps the local economy. We have increased awareness through educational initiatives, and empowered individuals and communities to make ecofriendly choices and understand the impact of plastic waste.

Which econscious products are most in demand? Any collaborations you can share with us?

Our product portfolio consists of around 35 to 40 items, but our Re-Bench, a recycled plastic bench, and some of our gift products are the ones that sell the most.

A majority of our customers are organizations that are passionate about making a positive impact. They include NGOs, corporate foundations and government authorities.

What are your key takeaways from the training at the Nexus Start-Up Hub at American Center New Delhi?

The two months we spent at Nexus were unforgettable and enriching. I had some initial worries about managing the in-person attendance along with running the business. But, to my surprise, it turned out to be an effortless experience. The training program was so comprehensive. It not only taught us new things but also helped us unlearn many old practices. Even after the program ended, the support we have been receiving from Nexus is something that we are deeply grateful for.

Tell us about your future plans.

Our future plans revolve around expanding our impact and promoting sustainability. We plan to venture into the recycling of other types of waste. In addition, we plan to introduce new ecofriendly products to make sustainable choices more accessible and appealing. We are determined to create a future where sustainability is at the forefront, inspiring others to join us in building a healthier and more sustainable world.


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