The Municipal Waste Management Survey for Wales showed the country recycled 12.6% of its waste in 2002/3, compared with 8.4% in 2001/2.
English authorities recycled 14.5% in 2002/3, but this was only an increase of two percentage points from the previous year.
This suggests that despite the English Governments pledges to get tough on failing councils, its neighbours recycling system is paying dividends.
Wales Minister for Environment Carwyn Jones said: I am delighted that the Wales recycling rate has now jumped to 12.6%. The quantity of materials recycled has tripled since the creation of the National Assembly of Wales in July 1999.
The figures show that Wales was well on the way to meeting the 15% recycling target for 2003/4 set out in the National Waste Strategy.
UK Environment Minister Elliot Morley has insisted that England will meet its 17% recycling target for 2003/4. The Welsh Assembly has provided £42 million since 2001/2 for local authorities to meet their recycling targets.