More homes could see the end of weekly bin collections, after government research said there would be no hygiene problems if rubbish was wrapped.
A third of English councils have already reduced collections
Many councils have already adopted a policy of collecting general waste fortnightly - with many picking up recyclable rubbish on alternate weeks.
Ministers say the move encourages householders to recycle more.
The environment department said it had targets on reducing landfill but it did not set waste policies for councils.
Environment minister Ben Bradshaw said pilot schemes with fortnightly collections had revealed an increase in the amount of recycling.
He labelled recycling as a "major part of our battle against climate change".
Recycling household waste, he said, was "the equivalent of taking 3.5 million cars off the road".
The research into waste collections - funded by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) - found that if waste was properly wrapped there should be no hygiene concerns.
"The research shows that alternate week collections work best when the public are informed well in advance of any change," said Mr Bradshaw.
The Conservatives say the government is disregarding public opinion.
Shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman said: "Axing weekly collections will hit families the hardest, who quite naturally produce more waste than single person households, or couples without children.
"Like many others, they will be asking whether it's too much to ask that our streets are kept clean and our bins emptied."
Some residents in areas where rubbish is collected fortnightly have complained of more rats, maggots and nasty odours.
Doretta Cocks, a Hampshire housewife who campaigns against fortnightly collections, says they are "not adequate" and "compromise public health".
She says her bin gives off an "awful smell" after 10 days, despite the rubbish being double-wrapped.
But Paul Bettison, from the Local Government Association, said there should be no hygiene problems.
"The concerns that some people have about vermin and flies have now been categorically proven to be ill-founded - provided that people keep to the advice their local authorities are giving them."
He said people should make sure their bins have a lid on at all times, and that lids are kept firmly closed.
One third of English councils have already phased out weekly collections of general waste.
Similarly, half of Welsh councils and many Northern Irish authorities already carry out less frequent collections.
The Green Party's Sian Berry said the move towards recycling needed to be backed by proper investment.
"The government needs to create industries to process and use the paper and plastics we collect and stop the environmental absurdity of exporting our recycled waste to China."
A separate study, by the government's waste body Wrap, found people in the UK are throwing away a total of 3.3m tonnes of food a year.
Half the waste is inedible, although it still means more than 15p of each £1 spent on food is wasted.