Pens and Pencils | Reviews and Data

The Best No-Plastic And Low Plastic Pens And Refills

Pilot S20 Ballpoint Pen
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Many people are trying to reduce the amount of plastic they use in their lives, but this can be quite difficult, especially with small, affordable items like pens. While pens and plastic go hand-in-hand, particularly with lower priced pens, there are some choices you can make to reduce the plastic in your writing instruments.

Is Pen Plastic A Problem?

There are so many uses of plastic in the world, are pens really worth worrying about? The Environmental Protection Agency has said that in some past years over 1.6 billion disposable pens were used in the US alone.

The stationery industry is trying to correct itself, with innovations like Uni-ball’s paper-based ballpoint refill, but there is still a heavy reliance on plastic components in pens. When a pen is very expensive and meant to be used for decades the use of plastic (or “resin” as it tends to be called when the product is in the hundreds of dollars range) isn’t as much of a problem, but we can all agree that disposable pens and refills aren’t a good thing.

Here are some product that will help you reduce your plastic usage to the bare minimum, at least as far as your writing is concerned.

Reducing Plastic Consumption With Rollerball Pens

If you are a rollerball pen lover, then you’ll want to avoid plastic-based refills that wear out quickly and have to be thrown out. Something like the Tombow BK-LP07 rollerball refill or Pilot Precise V5 refill, while of excellent quality, come to mind because it can’t be refilled and doesn’t last for more than a few dozen pages of writing.

Metal Rollerball Refills

You can move to something like the Schmidt P8127 or Lamy M66 in order to move to a primarily metal refill. These both have plastic components in them, but full metal refills are almost impossible to find today. If you want a more universal rollerball pen refill that is metal you can try a Waterman or Monteverde rollerball refill, but you will have to made more for the metal over their plastic counterparts.

Refillable Rollerball Pens

An even better idea to reduce plastic consumption would be shifting over to a pen that is refillable. Traditional rollerball and gel pen refills are not refillable, because they have sealed refills and ink that isn’t sold on its own. Some rollerball pens are able to use fountain pen ink, which means you can fill the same cartridge over and over again. So while the pen may be made of plastic your consumption is very limited, especially compare to that of a sealed, disposable rollerball.

A refillable rollerball pen, like the Schneider Ray, can be refilled from a glass bottle of fountain pen ink over and over again, meaning a fraction of the use of plastic relative to a more typical rollerball, like the Uni-ball Elite.

Reducing Plastic Use With Ballpoint Pens

While ballpoint ink isn’t refillable, it’s a good plastic to start with your plastic savings because ballpoint refills just write and write, lasting considerably longer than any other pen type.

Ballpoint Refills

If you want to use less plastic in your ballpoints then you should consider a metal, Parker-style refill, like the Jetstream SXR-600. Refills like this have a plastic topper, but the rest of the components are metal, which is considerably more recyclable than the average plastic. Finding a metals G2 refill (the official name of the “Parker-style” refill) is quite easy and manufacturer’s tend to still use metal here where most rollerball refill designs have moved to plastic.

Another option is to consider a newer, more efficient refill design. The best example of this is the Uni Jetstream SXR-ML-05, which is a refill that was introduced in 2022. This model uses thinner walls in its design, which means less plastic and room for 70% more ink in a refill that’s compatible with Jetstream multi-pens. It’s a lot more bang-for-the-buck, making for a win for your wallet as well as the planet.

Ballpoint ink is sticky and thick, making it practically impossible to refill a ballpoint refill on your own, and no company even sells ballpoint ink to consumers, so filling your own refills sadly isn’t yet an option.

Ballpoint Pens With Less Plastic

This is perhaps the easiest win here, as finding metal ballpoint pen isn’t any problem at all. In fact Unsharpen.com has many, many recommendations for great metal rollerballs with no plastic (or essentially none, saving for small some internal components). Some favorites include:

By using metal and wood parts you can get a great pen that will last your for years, if not decades, and consume almost no plastic in its lifetime.

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