Wales has met its first statutory target of recycling 52% of its municipal waste between April 2012 and March 2013.
Provisional figures for the first quarter of the year show household recycling rates between January and March 2013 increased slightly and indicate the 2013 target has been met.
The overall tonnage of waste produced in the period decreased 4% compared to the same period last year.
Alun Davies, Welsh minister for natural resources and food (left), said: “This is a real achievement and one that was born of hard work by local authorities and householders right across Wales.
“It means that Wales continues to be the top recycling nation in the UK by some distance and we should all take pride in this.”
The second statutory target is a recycling rate of 58% by 2015/16. These goals form part of the nation’s aim to become a zero waste nation by 2050.
In Northern Ireland between January and March 2013 35% of municipal waste was sent for recycling and composting. Figures for England for this quarter are not available yet, but between October and December 2012 40.9% of household waste was recycled.
Mal Williams, executive director of Zero Waste Wales said: “I have been pushing a Zero Waste agenda for over a dozen years now and am proud to say that the people of Wales have not been duped by the “wasters” and have embraced recycling fully. They have the common sense to know wasting is wrong and that our unthinking rush to the consumerism that creates millions of tonnes of waste every day is probably one of the biggest mistakes that we humans have made.”