Householders and businesses in Northern Ireland will have to increase their recycling by more than 20% over the next seven years, if new plans by the Environment Minister get the go-ahead.
Alex Attwood wants to introduce a compulsory target of 60% by 2020 in an effort to cut the amount of waste that goes to landfill.
Last year 38.4% of municipal waste collected by local authorities was recycled - a significant improvement on the 8.9% a decade ago.
However Mr Attwood, who introduced a five pence carrier bag levy last month, said he was confident the community could rise to the challenge.
"Making this 60% recycling target statutory gives certainty for everyone involved in waste recycling.
"It's a win win for the environment and business. It will generate economic opportunities for local businesses, helping them to improve their productivity and profitability and compete in the global market while further enhancing the clean green environment.
"A low carbon country, commerce and homes is best for our environment and a key way to grow the economy and jobs," he said.
The minister's proposals go beyond what is required under European legislation which states that 50% of council-collected waste has to be recycled by 2020. Members of the public are being asked to have their say on the ambitious proposals before the minister brings forward a bill to the Assembly early next year.
"I have yet to take final decisions on some details. I want to hear what people have to say, and this consultation will help me to establish the best way forward," Mr Attwood added.
Declan Alyson, campaigner with Friends of the Earth, welcomed the 60% target but said more could be done to change attitudes. He said: "We need to look at waste not as something just to be disposed of but to be utilised and there are many things that we can do. But we need to stay away from incineration and any waste management plan that includes incineration."