State officials say Washington's recycling rate hit nearly 51 percent in 2011.
It's the first time the recycling rate has surpassed the 50 percent goal set by a 1989 state law.
The Department of Ecology said Tuesday that residents are recycling more and throwing away less waste. Residents tossed out about 170,000 fewer tons of waste in 2011 than they did in 2010. They also recycled 186,000 more tons in 2011 than the year before.
Officials say recycling conserves energy, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduces residents' exposure to toxic chemicals.