This is 4% more than the figure achieved last year and ahead of the Governments target to recycle and compost 25% of household waste in England by 2005/06.
Defra also confirmed that all waste disposal authorities in England had successfully met their landfill allowances in the first year of the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS).
Local environment minister Ben Bradshaw said: This is a terrific achievement by the public and local authorities. Recycling makes a vital contribution to tackling climate change and keeping council tax down.
But he warned that there was still a lot more to be done. Local authorities have worked hard to increase recycling 4% in just the last year, but there is still an unacceptably big gap between the best and worst performers.
Provisional regional figures show the East Midlands topping the table with a recycling rate of 33% while London languishes at the bottom with 21%.
Local Government Association environment board chairman Paul Bettison also welcomed the news. He said: Local authorities have worked hard to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill, despite an estimated annual funding shortfall of half a billion pounds. But there is still a lot to be done to recycle 40% of all waste by 2010.
Bradshaw is due to meet retailers today to review the progress on reducing packaging and the number of disposable shopping bags in circulation. Defra said it welcomed recent moves by retailers but ministers want retailers to sign up to a voluntary code of practice aimed at reducing disposable carrier bag use.