(March 7, 11:23 a.m.) NatureFlex films have gone zero. Zero, in terms of the amount of carbon emitted during the production of biodegradable and compostable NatureFlex films, that is.

The films are manufactured by Wigton, Cumbria-based Innovia Films Ltd.

Innovia’s carbon-zero status came with the help of thousands of trees recently planted, due to results from an audit conducted on NatureFlex’s products to determine the amount of carbon needed to be offset to erase the carbon footprint involved in manufacturing, said Malcolm Cohn, Innovia’s market manager for the Americas.

“Everything we make and use has an environmental impact,” Cohn said.

Based on recommendations from the audit, Innovia planted 3,000 trees near its Wigton facility to absorb the carbon dioxide from production and make its manufacturing carbon neutral, Cohn said.

Co2balance — a company that helps reduce carbon emissions — owns and manages the forest, he said.

Innovia already adheres to several environmentally-friendly practices in its operations, including the use of 95% renewable materials to produce NatureFlex films, which allows for total disintegration in six weeks, Cohn said.

“We understand why it’s important to not be as dependent on oil-based products as the past and focus on renewable resources,” he said. “It’s part of your social responsibility. If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk.”

The company has earned honors for its efforts in sustainability. Its NatureFlex films are used as overwrap on Earthcycle Packaging Ltd. trays, which earned an Impact Award in packaging at the Produce Marketing Association’s 2007 Fresh Summit convention, Cohn said.

Innovia also uses renewable energy certificates (REC) — which equalize all energy emissions used in manufacturing — to counteract any use of electricity, Cohn said.

Any excess electricity is sold to electricity grids in England, Cohn said.

Because of rising U.S. demand for Innovia’s products, the company is scheduled to open a manufacturing operation in Tecumseh, Kan., in the next 18 months, if not sooner, Cohn said.

“There’s a movement toward prepackaged produce,” he said, citing Safeway Stores, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Thrifty Foods and Wild Oats as customers.

The plant in Kansas should be environmentally compliant as well, he said.

Like its Wigton facility, Innovia plans to generate electricity and use RECs, in addition to the implementation of modern practices designed to eliminate waste, chemicals and water use, he said.