The thermodynamics, kinetics. and energy use of composting systems with air recirculation were determined for feedstocks comprising paper mill sludge and biosolids. Results were developed by simulating the composting system using a two-dimensional finite difference numerical model. Incorporated into the simulation model was independent regulation of temperature and oxygen using a closed loop feedback control system with a two-stage fan setting. Results showed that at low airflows and high recirculation ratios, heat removal by the exhaust gas was insufficient to maintain set point temperatures with the result that process temperatures increased and eventually limited the reaction rate. Types of feedstock, magnitude of airflow and recirculation ratio all affected the energy use of the system. Although recirculation leads to high energy use, it can produce high quality compost by having a temperature gradient of less than 2 degrees C across the bed. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.