In south-east Wales the Vale of Glamorgan Council came top for recycling in figures published recently by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Cans and papers are among the rubbish processed for recycling
It said residents who were keen to recycle had helped it meet targets.
In 2005-6, the Vale recycled nearly 19% of waste and was closely followed by Bridgend, re-using 18%, and Merthyr Tydfil, recycling 15.5%.
Cardiff was bottom of the table, recycling 8.19% and Torfaen, on 11.1%.
Cardiff says it is now recycling 13.71% of waste and expanding kerbside collection to all its areas this year.
SOUTH EAST WALES RECYCLING
Vale of Glamorgan 18.75%
Merthyr Tydfil 15.51%
Blaenau Gwent 14.78%
Rhondda Cynon Taf 14.10%
Source: Welsh Assembly Government 2005-6
The Vale of Glamorgan said while its keen residents had helped, a lack of funding was standing in the way to increasing recycling collections.
However, unlike neighbouring Cardiff, the Vale council already collected rubbish for recycling in all its areas.
Second place Bridgend said its latest figures showed it now recycled 20% of waste, collecting paper, bottles and textiles from every household in the county.
It has also developed a centre to produce energy from waste by working with neighbouring Neath Port Talbot Council.
Despite its lowly position in the league table, Cardiff appears to be improving its performance and has introduced a wide range of methods of encouraging people in the Welsh capital to recycle.
It is extending kerbside collections to the whole of the city and said 40% of waste was being recycled or composted in areas which already have the service.
The council has a dedicated recycling team to inform people about the scheme, and runs an educational awareness programme in all Cardiff's primary schools which is being adjusted so it can be expanded to secondary schools.
But the Labour opposition group on the council has accused the Liberal Democrat-led authority of "dragging its feet" on kerbside collection "for far too long".
In Torfaen, the council said the it had faced "significant challenges" getting recycling schemes up and running with many residents living in flats and terraced houses.
But it is now collecting plastic bottles, textiles, glass, tin cans and newspapers each week from every household and rolling out collection of green and kitchen waste.
Torfaen said it was now recycling nearly 17% of rubbish and was confident that would meet recycling targets set by the assembly government.
In common with other parts of Wales, there have also been concerns about what will happen when land currently used for landfill runs out.
People in the west of Cardiff, for example, are fighting proposals for two new sites proposed in countryside in the Rhydlafar area.