1 September 2023

Obituary: Keith John Bratley, Life Member & Past CIWM President

Written on behalf of his family by his brother in law John Leaver.

It is with deep personal and family sadness that I have to inform you of the passing of Keith Bratley a Fellow, Life Member and former President of the Institute. Keith passed away peacefully at his home in Cawthorne, Barnsley on the 6th August following a short illness at the age of 86.

Keith was born in the steel City of Sheffield in 1937 the youngest of two siblings. He was just two years old when WW2 began and he told stories of him and his family hiding in an underground shelter in the back garden of his home whilst his beloved City was being subjected to German bombing raids. 
As he grew he developed an interest and fascination for motor vehicles and began assisting his father Jack repairing cars and vans for neighbours and friends.

It was no surprise therefore that upon leaving school at the age of 14 and with no academic qualifications he joined his father and began his career in wastes management by firstly assisting qualified mechanics and then serving a craft apprenticeship with Sheffield City Councils Cleansing and Baths Department.

Along the way he began studying at technical college and from a standing start he went on to achieve a Higher National Certificate in Mechanical Engineering, with endorsements, which enabled him to apply for and become a Chartered Engineer, an achievement that he was justifiably proud of. Following his apprenticeship he moved into his first managerial role as Transport Manager with Sheffield City Council and his professional life began.

 Over the next 35 years Keith worked tirelessly in local government holding senior positions with the Greater London Council, Hertfordshire County Council, South Yorkshire County Council, West Midlands County Council and his final appointment with the West Yorkshire Waste Authority. After retiring from local government Keith went on to become a successful waste management consultant. 

He was a pioneer in his chosen field of wastes management, particularly in the 1970s. He championed change in landfill operations when in 1974, for the first time, he introduced landfill compactors to the UK, which revolutionised and significantly improved the way waste was treated and enhanced. He also helped to ignite public interest in recycling when in 1977 he installed the first ever innovative glass recycling programme when he introduced the first ever Bottlebank in a Supermarket car park in his home City of Sheffield.

His connection with the Institute began when he joined as a Student in 1963. He became an Associate Member in 1965, then later a Fellow in 1983 before a Fellow Retired in 2012. Keith received Life Membership in 2013.

He was also honoured by his peers in 1991 when he was installed as President of the Institute another achievement which gave him and his family both great satisfaction and treasured memories. He served the Institute in many different capacities throughout his membership years, regionally, nationally, and internationally helping to shape the organisation that it has become. He was proud to serve the membership watching it grow and mature.

Keith met the love of his life Pauline in 1955 and they were married for 49 years before she sadly passed in 2008. They were blessed with three amazing children, Karen, Kevin and Candice, whom he thought the world of. In turn, he was a very proud grandfather six times over and lived to see the birth of his very first great grandchild just a few weeks ago. His love for family life was shared by Pauline and his extended family have a great deal to thank them both for in that regard with their legendary get togethers at their various homes over the years.

And finally, I need to mention the other great love of Keith’s life his beloved football team Sheffield Wednesday (aka the Owls) whom he supported and followed for over 75 years. He was a season ticket holder at Hillsborough and has followed their highs and lows (regrettably more lows over recent years) without any loss of enthusiasm. He lived and was present to see the Owls win the recent play off final against their neighbours and local rivals Barnsley at Wembley in May this year.

In summary, Keith was an amazing individual, who from very humble beginnings emerged to be not only a champion of our great profession but also an irreplaceable human being. I am certain that his passing will leave a large gap in the lives of the people who were privileged to know him.