Ambitious targets to increase the amount of rubbish recycled in the UK could help create more than 50,000 jobs, a report suggested today.
The study by Friends of the Earth said 51,400 jobs could be created if 70% of waste collected by local councils were recycled.
And another 18,800 jobs would be created if commercial and industrial waste were recycled at the same rate.
According to the study, recycling creates 10 times more jobs per tonne than sending rubbish to landfill or incineration, with posts generated in collection, sorting and reprocessing, as well as in the supply chain and in the wider economy.
In 2008, the UK recycled around 37% of municipal waste - rubbish collected by local councils from households and other sources such as street sweepings and public bins.
Under EU rules, that has to rise to 50% by 2020.
While Wales and Scotland have announced they plan to recycle 70% of council-collected waste by 2025, Northern Ireland and England, where most rubbish is thrown away, are still aiming to recycle only 50%.
Friends of the Earth warned the UK would lose out on nearly 25,000 new jobs in the recycling industry and wider economy if it stuck to the 50% target instead of raising its aim.
If the country were to set and meet the ambitious 70% target, it could create 29,400 jobs in the recycling industry, a further 14,700 in the supply chain and 7,300 in the wider economy, the report estimates.
Friends of the Earth waste campaigner Julian Kirby said: "Recycling is a win-win for the environment and the economy - saving precious resources and creating many more jobs than expensive and outdated incinerators.
"The Government must be ambitious in setting recycling rates - better product design, as well as action to stop supermarkets and producers selling products that can't be recycled, means that we could easily achieve upwards of 75% recycling rates by 2025.
"If the coalition is serious about creating a green, jobs-rich economy then it must unlock the wealth in our waste and help consumers to recycle as much as possible."