Replacement Refills – Should you be using them in your Detectable Pens?

Explore the pros and cons of using replacement refills in your factory pens as we tackle some of the most common misconceptions

Here at Retreeva Global, we are often asked the question “should I use replacement refills in my food safe detectable pens?”

During these discussions, we have detected a lot of confusion around what the best option is for a site that values safety, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability. With this in mind, we decided to tackle some of the most common misconceptions surrounding replacement refills – demystifying the topic so that you can make the best decision for you and your site.

The myth: Replacement Refills are more cost-effective

Are you incentivised on delivering cost savings? Perhaps you are feeling the pinch and looking to maximise your budget? Whatever the case, if you are looking to reduce your site’s outgoing expenses, you are certainly not alone. You are also not alone if you believe that replacing only part of your detectable pens (ie the cartridge and insert) will help you with this goal. In fact, this is a very common misconception throughout the industry. 


The truth: Refills are not cheaper!

Here at Retreeva Global, we have done our research and discovered that many of the brands offering detectable pen refills use cartridges of an inferior quality. Some contain as little as 1km (approx 0.62mi) of ink – this is ten times less ink than our best-selling retractable pen*! This means that whilst the purchase price is less, the pens are far less economical. Ultimately, the more cost-effective solution is to buy a quality detectable pen with a higher capacity cartridge. 

The myth: Replacement Refills are better for the environment

The use of plastic is a very emotive subject at present, with everyone looking for new ways to reduce their plastic usage. As with the assumption that replacement refills save money, it also makes total sense to assume they are more sustainable. After all, instead of throwing away the housing of your pens, you can simply switch out a couple of parts. What’s more, some brands supply detectable pens with plunger ‘pips’ that are prone to snapping, so we can understand the appeal of having the option to replace them.


The truth: It is better to invest in a quality detectable pen

Even without the option to replace the cartridge and insert, a quality detectable pen with a higher capacity cartridge is going to have a longer life span than a less durable option. What’s more, although a replacement refill extends the life of a pen’s housing, up to ten refills will have to be used and discarded to supply the same amount of ink as a 10km (approx 6.21mi) detectable pen. It is also worth noting that although it is admirable to hold on to pens for as long as possible, this should never be at the expense of your site’s attitude towards hygiene and safety. If you are regularly replacing the ink cartridges of your pens, it is harder to know when to ‘retire’ the pen’s body. If it becomes worn and marked with age, this could result in a microbiological contamination risk.  

The myth: Replacement Refills will bring more value to your site

As a comparatively new addition to the world of food safety and hygiene, it would make sense for pens with a replacement refill to be an advancement on the traditional detectable design – offering something new and exciting to the industry. Having one or more replaceable elements usually brings a lot of value to a product, so it is no surprise that this feature is often touted as a major selling point. 


The truth: Replacement Refills could put your site at risk

Detectable pens that have been designed to be taken apart (ie to have the cartridge and insert replaced) are more likely to lose small parts. This creates an additional, unnecessary foreign body contamination risk. If your pen contains a metal spring, this only makes the problem worse! There is also a significant risk of foreign matter entering the pen housing when the refill is removed. 

The myth: Replacement Refills will impress auditors and customers

Striving to impress auditors and customers alike is a common goal throughout the industry. In fact, you may be looking into replacement refills with the very intention of improving your site’s reputation. As we’ve addressed, the term ‘refillable’ has connotations of sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and forward-thinking. But does that apply to this scenario? 


The truth: Replacement Refills stand in the way of traceability 

Throughout the industry, there is an increasing pressure to increase traceability and accountability in the manufacturing process. Replacement refills undermine this effort, as they make it practically impossible to track all the interchanged components of your pens. Auditors and customers with an in depth understanding of manufacturing won’t be blinded by the term ‘refillable’ and will instead focus on your site’s ability to properly manage its equipment. 

So, should I use replacement refills in my detectable pens?

Here at Retreeva Global, we are of the opinion that replacing the inserts in your pens is a lose : lose situation. Not only will replacement refills cost you more, but they will also increase the risk of foreign body contamination at your site. This is a risk that needs to be eliminated entirely, which is why we cannot with good conscience advocate for detectable pen refills. Of course, the final decision lies with you, but we hope our attempt to clear up the most common misconceptions helps you to make an informed decision.

*Best-selling RG-RSC retractable pen with standard ink cartridge.