Up to 17% of the UK's electricity supply could be powered by common household rubbish by 2020, according to a report.
The EU wants 10% of energy from renewable sources by 2010
More than half of the 30m tonnes of rubbish sent to English landfills could power 2m homes a year, it says.
The Institution of Civil Engineers and the Renewable Power Association report says most of this waste is named in EU law as sources of renewable energy.
The UK will miss EU targets if current landfill use continues, it adds.
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) said common rubbish such as fish and chip paper, teabags and food scraps with plastic cutlery could be used to make energy.
Peter Gerstrom, chairman of ICE's waste management board, said: "We are not generating enough renewable electricity, which means that the UK will not reach the EU Renewables Directive target of producing 10% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2010."
"We are even less likely to reach the next target of having 20% provided by renewables by 2020."
Around 3% of the UK's electricity came from renewable energy, he said. There would not be any penalties imposed if the target were missed.
Mr Gerstrom said the UK was producing more waste every year, creating "rubbish mountains" across the country.
Around 20m tonnes of usable waste was sent to landfills in 2003, he said.
Converting biodegradable waste into energy would help the environment and reduce the UK's reliance on landfills, he said.
"It is patently not in the UK's interest to allow the energy, enough to power the population of Wales and Northern Ireland every year, to go to waste by being buried."
The report says "radical thinking" on alternative ways of meeting energy demand is needed.
Gaynor Hartnell, Renewable Power Association policy director, said: "Producing energy from waste, once recycling targets have been achieved... also helps with energy security, through reducing dependence on energy imports."
She said a limit on the use of landfills should be imposed, to encourage recycling and ensuring enough waste was available to reach the 17% target.