No Pen Refills…Says Who?

(Updated to correct the name of the columnist.)

Columnist Lori Borgman wrote a puzzling piece the other day complaining that it is all but impossible to find refills for ink pens, implying that the pen industry makes only disposables and is behind the curve when it comes to environmentally friendly products.

G207 Refill Blue

In the ever expanding universe of pens – fat tip, fine point, gel, sparkle, retractable, indelible, washable and erasable – there is not a single refill. The operating principle for the pen is “Use it, and then lose it.”

The reason that’s puzzling is that, as any pen collector knows, refills are readily available for many “disposable” pens. Some of the larger pen makers even have easy-to-find pages on their websites listing the refills for their various pens, as you can see at the Pilot and Uniball sites.

Obviously, buying refillable pens is more environmentally sound (and less expensive) than using and throwing away disposable pens. But, refills aside, pen makers also have been busy putting out a wide array of “green” pen products.

Paper Mate recently announced a new marketing campaign for its Biodegradable pen and mechanical pencil.  According to the company, the barrels are made of corn-based materials that will break down in normal backyard soil in about a year.

There’s also Pilot’s BeGreeN range of pens, made from recycled plastic (72 to 93 percent, depending on the pen). I have one of them, a Pilot Choose .07 mm, that I keep next to the phone, and it’s a sturdy, simple little gel pen that’s always smooth and reliable when I need to jot down a quick note. Pilot also makes the B2P we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the pen made from recycled plastic bottles that was chosen as the official pen of the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

And, Pentel also has a recycled line which includes the RSVP RT and the HyperG gel.

Of course, those aren’t all the recycled or otherwise environmentally friendly pens on the market, but you get the idea.

So, when Borgman writes in her column…

You can spend $5 on an energy-saving light bulb, hundreds on low-flow toilets and low-water-usage washing machines, thousands on energy efficient windows and heating and air conditioning systems, but good luck finding a 99-cent refill for a pen.

Somewhere along the line we’ve missed the point.

…I’ve got to think that she’s the one who’s missed the point, somehow.

By the way, if you’ve been buying disposable pens that don’t refill and now have a huge stack of them that you need to get rid of, here’s a suggestion: Send them to The Pen Guy. He’s trying to collect 1 million pens for his Mercedes Art Car project.

This guy likes pens. Good for him.

If you are considering using pen refills, check our guide to Finding your Perfect Pen Refill.

Photo of author

Tony Bridges

As a seasoned journalist and freelance writer, I've spent over three decades telling stories and exploring the world through the written word. With a passion for writing instruments, I found my niche at The Pen Vibe, a blog that shares our collective fascination with pens, pencils, and other tools that have shaped the art of writing.

8 thoughts on “No Pen Refills…Says Who?”

  1. @karla, @beau @tonya b- I’ve been looking for Techrefill by fma Italy also! This pen writes better than anything i have ever used! I’m on my 4th and last promotional pen that has this refill. Although i’m really disappointed to see the answers here- at least i finally have one and can let go of this! Thanks.

  2. @Karla, @Beau, I’d say it’s pretty unlikely that you will find individual refills for promotional pens, since they are probably sold wholesale to the promo pen manufacturer. However, it’s very possible that other types of pen refills may fit those pens.

    If it was a smooth, black ink writer, I’d be willing to bet that it was a gel (or possibly an upper end ballpoint). There are various universal refills on the market, as well as the popular Pilot G2 and Uniball Signo 207 refills. You might experiment a little with one of those to see if it will fit the barrel of the pen you have.

    You may have to mod them by wrapping the refill with tape or cutting a little off the end cap, but it’s worth looking into if you really like the shape and feel of your promo pen.

  3. @ Karla – I am having the same problem – I can find them in bulk from Taiwan but not from any local store or available on the internet. If you have solved please let me know. Thank you!

  4. So, you seem to know a lot about pens. All I know is that I love them. My very favorite triangular promotional pen bit the dust this weekend. It is a black ballpoint that wrote so smoothly. The refill is a “techrefill by fma Italy.” I’ve been on the Internet for hours … I cannot find a thing. Can you help me out at all?

    • I had another similar pen in my pen drawer. Opened it up and it has a Parker Quinkflow ISO 12757.2 . Fully interchangeable with the Techrefill by fma.

  5. No research on her part. Research as easy as actually going into that “aisle of pens the length of a football field at the big box store”. Which really only requires finding the refills hanging there and pulling the right one off the hook. If someone is that lazy don’t blame society for the “non-refillable” pen!!
    Oh, and she could go buy a FOUNTAIN pen and converter!!


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