England has exceeded it national recycling target for 2003/4, recycling and composting 17.7% of municipal waste.
Elliot Morley told MRW that kerbside collection has increased by 53%
He said: "What's even more encouraging is the further fall by 1.2 million tonnes in the amount of waste going to landfill. We are also seeing that for the first time ever, there has been a fall in the total amount of municipal waste."
Morley congratulated local authorities on making recycling widely available to residents, with the amount of kerbside collections increasing by 53% between 2002/3 and 2003/4.
He said that the national Recycle Now campaign had also helped to focus people's attention on recycling, adding "it's good to see that the money invested in an advertising campaign was worthwhile and had a positive effect."
Across the country, the amount recycled varied greatly, with the neighbouring regions of eastern England and the northeast recycling 23.3% and 11.9% respectively.
Morley said: "The northeast did have the lowest recycling rate, but recycling there is actually up 80% from the 2002/3 levels."
Morley added that he thought such significant increases were partly due to the impending launch of the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) in April, which will impose £150 per tonne fines on local authorities that exceed their allowances.
He said that England's capacity to deal with the materials collected was growing all the time.
Morley also advocated the export of those recyclables that the home market was unable to deal with.
He said: "Its no bad thing. While in an ideal world I would prefer to see all materials generated within the country recycled here, I would rather see it being dealt with abroad than piling up here. There's nothing wrong with a market in recycled materials if it's properly managed."
The next target for England is 25% recycling by 2005/6.
Morley said: "Its going to be close, but 25 % is definitely achievable, especially when you consider the acceleration of recycling rates over the past year."