Less than half of Northern Ireland's waste now goes to landfill, new figures have revealed.
Just under 49% of the 240,500 tonnes of rubbish ended up buried beneath the ground between April and June – while spring recycling rates also climbed to their highest level yet.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said the municipal recycling rate rose to 42.1% during the same period – an increase of more than 1% compared to the same period the previous year. The household recycling rate also reached a new high of 42.7%.
All councils are set targets for the amount of waste that goes to landfill and these are lowered every year.
Of the three groups that handle waste across Northern Ireland, Arc21 in the east sent the lowest amount of rubbish to landfill, while SWaMP2008, which covers the south of Northern Ireland, had the highest level.
But much more needs to be done, said Sue Christie from Northern Ireland Environment Link.
"We're still not up there with the best that we can do in the UK and we really need to set our sights a little bit higher," she said. "A lot of work needs to be done on preventing waste in the first place, especially around food where so much of the food which is grown is actually going to waste and going to landfill." Friends of the Earth said Northern Ireland needs to set more challenging targets for reducing landfill and recycling.
"Waste reduction activities are often driven by the targets so if you have strong targets you will have strong action to meet them," spokesman Declan Allison said.
"If you set unambitious targets you will not do enough to reduce the amount of waste that you are generating in the first place," he said.