Household recycling figures for Wales released today indicate a three percentage point rise - from 48% to 51% - in the 12 months to the end of September 2012 compared to the previous 12 months.
According to provisional Q2 data for 2012, the municipal recycling rate, which is a combination of reuse, recycling and composting, reached 54% in that period.
This was an improvement on the previous quarter, when the recycling rate was 53%.
In comparision, Defra recently reported Q1 recycling rates for England in 2012 of 45%.
The Welsh Government says it is on track to meet its goals of 52% waste by 2012/13 and 70% by 2024/25, as set out in its strategy Towards Zero Waste.
John Griffiths (left), Welsh environment minister, said: “With the UK’s highest recycling rate, Wales is leading the way in effective waste management.
“Our rising recycling rates are largely the result of the funding we have provided councils to improve their collection services and the way that they have managed these changes.”
Top Welsh councils have achieved recycling rates of 59% or 60%, while Blaenau Gwent and Merthyr Tydfil councils reported the biggest rise in their rates compared with the same quarter in 2011, with increases of 17% and 14% respectively, because of improved recycling collection systems.
Griffiths also praised householders for their commitment to separating their recycling rather than throwing waste away in the bin.
In Wales the amount of residual waste produced per person has decreased, falling by 7% from 59kg per head in Q2 2011 to 55kg per head in 2012.
The minister added that there is still “some way to go” to reach ambitous recycling targets, but he is confident that the Welsh people can rise to the challenge.