Recycling has helped tackle climate change by cutting the UK's carbon emissions by 10 to 15 million tonnes a year, a report is set to say.
Recycling has nearly doubled in three years
The recycling industry body, WRAP, says the benefit of keeping waste out of landfill sites has been equivalent to taking 3.5m cars off the road.
But its report cites major problems, including a shortage of high quality centres to sort recyclable materials.
Recycling has nearly doubled to 27% of all materials in the past three years.
However, the UK is still lagging behind most of its European neighbours in this area.
The BBC's Roger Harrabin said pressure from the EU and the shortage of landfill sites had contributed to the increase in recycling.
However, he added the amount of recycling in the UK must nearly double again to meet new European targets.
As well as a shortage of sorting centres, WRAP's report is expected to say that some centres are turning out sub-standard products.
It follows a separate study by Mintel which found that householders have started to lead greener lifestyles over the last year, by doing more recycling and turning off appliances.
However, the survey of 2,200 people found holidays abroad and car travel were harder habits to break.