LDC Top 50 2019
Bruce Bratley left a career in environmental academia to start recycling firm First Mile in 2014.
“I’d seen a lot of committed environmentalists without a plan,” he explains. “I decided the best way to make a change was to create a purpose-led business.” First Mile now works with 25,000 businesses, taking away their recyclables, and finding the most environmentally friendly plants to process the waste. Bruce has raised funding to help scale the business nationwide, and the entrepreneur has international ambitions too. “We could get to £100m in revenue in London alone but we don’t want to be some regional lifestyle business, we really want to go for it.”
What’s your USP?
The rest of the waste industry is focused on one asset, like landfill or incinerator, so they need to keep feeding that asset with waste to make it profitable. They only want big customers, and only care about the waste. By not owning assets we can move material around if the technology changes. We are not tied into a 20-year facility that’s out of date, which means we can always get the best environmental solution.
What’s your personal ambition?
I was brought up on a farm in Yorkshire so I’m no stranger to hard work, being resourceful, and fixing things. I used to grow and sell cauliflowers at the end of the road to make money. At First Mile, I started with one truck, one driver and one customer. Now we are turning over £30m, with 260 employees. We took some private equity funding to help fuel our ambitions: we want to go national and then international.
How important has your team been in achieving your ambition?
We hire people who are committed environmentalists who also want to reach the business goals as well. The team here want to make a difference. They are protesting with their career and ambition, which is important. They understand that the bigger we get, the more recycling we can do. There is a crisis facing humanity and we are trying to do our bit to save it.