The amount of household waste being recycled has doubled over the past four years, new government figures show.
Recycling levels still lag behind that of the rest of Europe
More than a fifth - or 23% - of England's domestic waste was turned into compost or recycled on 2004-5.
But huge regional variations remain with the North East recycling 16% and the East of England nearly a third.
The figures come as green groups call for councils to be given the power to charges householders according to the amount of waste they produce.
Local Environmental Quality Minister Ben Bradshaw said: "Every person in England is currently recycling enough to fill eight green wheelie bins, but they could be filling over 20."
He told the BBC the more crowded south and east of England were forced to look for alternatives to diminishing landfill sites before other regions.
"But the northern regions are catching up," he said. "They are improving more quickly.
"There are also some difficulties in rural areas and in urban areas. Sometimes there can be difficulties in getting access to people if they live in tower blocks, for example."
The Waste Resources Action Programme (Wrap) said every household could recycle 60% of its waste.
Chief executive Jennie Price said: "Nearly 80% of England's households now have doorstep recycling schemes - now we all need to make sure we use them."
According to Wrap, the organisation behind the government's Recycle Now campaign, over 40% of household waste comes from retail packaging.
It also estimates that the average household throws away £424 of wasted food each year.
"We are trying to encourage people to be more savvy shoppers," said a Wrap spokeswoman.
Thirteen leading retailers have also given their backing to a Wrap initiative to reduce the amount of packaging and food waste thrown away.
The Courtauld Commitment aims to tackle packaging and food waste over the next five years.
Friends of the Earth (FOE), meanwhile, has called on the government to give local authorities new powers to charge householders according to how much waste they produce.
It argues residents should pay a variable rate in place of the existing council tax so good recyclers would save money while homes which generate excessive waste would effectively be fined.
Households are being encouraged to recycle wood
But FOE argues councils will need to ensure the schemes are fair by providing good doorstep recycling and compost services.
A recent survey found many councils would be keen to set up waste charging schemes, which are common in some countries with high recycling rates.
Georgina Bloomfield, a recycling campaigner at FOE, said: "If we are serious about tackling waste then we need to give councils the power to charge householders a variable rate according to the amount they produce.
"Such schemes are common in Europe and have dramatically reduced waste and improved recycling rates."
FOE says the schemes have resulted in reductions in residual waste of up to 50%.
The government recently announced it would soon be publishing new recycling statutory performance targets for local authorities.
Long-term targets are needed if Britain is to reach the recycling levels of Europe's best performers, Germany on 57% and the Netherlands on 64%, FOE said.