Up to 95% of the UK's municipal waste could be diverted from landfill sites if an emerging treatment process is embraced, according to a key report.
Mechanical biological treatment (MBT) could end the need for politically sensitive incineration plants in many places, the year-long study found.
As much as 85% of the household waste going into MBT plants could count towards a council's recycling targets.
"There is a widespread feeling that non-thermal infrastructure can be implemented more rapidly than alternatives."
By 2020, the UK must only send to landfill 35% of the biodegradable municipal waste it created in 1995.
An Institute of Civil Engineers report last year estimated that up to 2,300 new waste-treatment facilities were needed to do this.
Many waste firms want to turn to incineration, but are put off by public fears. MBT could provide a solution.
The Juniper report added: "There could also be less need for large numbers of energy-from-waste plants than had previously been thought."
MBT has largely been developed in mainland Europe, and is cautiously being introduced to the UK.
Plants receive household waste, separate and clean the dry recyclables, and produce compost from the biodegradable material.
Lancashire County Council is one of the first UK authorities to turn to the process.
It is planning to build an MBT plant after being awarded £75 million by the Government in a private finance initiative last year.