Original vs Compatible vs Recycled Ink Cartridges

The cost of an ink jet printer has fallen dramatically in recent years, with most of the main manufacturers offering entry level printers for as little as £35. This has led to printer manufacturers increasing the price of the ink cartridges to ensure they stay in profit.

You can buy a new printer with ink cartridges included, but these cartridges are often 'starter' versions containing much less ink than normal. It is only when you come to buy replacement ink cartridge you realise that they can cost more than the printer itself!

This has led to growth in the market for compatible and recycled cartridges. At Refax we sell original, compatible and recycled or remanufactured ink cartridges to give you the flexibility to decide. We compare each cartridge type and the pros and cons of each.

Quick links:

  1. What is an original ink cartridge?
  2. What is a compatible ink cartridge?
  3. What is a recycled or remanufactured ink cartridge?
  4. Conclusion


What are original ink cartridges?

The cartridges will be produced by the original manufacturer of your printer. For example if you buy a Canon Inkjet Printer, the original equipment manufacturer (or OEM) will be Canon. If you buy an original ink cartridge it will be made and approved by the OEM.

OEM cartridges are the most expensive, but they are also the best quality and the most reliable. You are buying peace of mind that the cartridge will fit your printer and work.


  • Guaranteed to fit your printer
  • Best possible quality of ink
  • Best reliability


  • Often expensive to buy


What are compatible ink cartridges?

Compatible ink cartridges can be easily found for almost all makes and models of printers. Compared to original cartridges, compatibles can we 30-40% cheaper to buy. 

Compatible cartridges are brand new and will never have been used before (unlike recycled cartridges) but are made by third party manufacturers i.e. not the original equipment manufacturers.

They will often look the same and be sold in a very similar packaging, but they probably won't have the original manufacturer's logo. 

So how are they cheaper?

There is a wide range in the quality of compatible ink cartridges and the old adage of 'you get what you pay for' definitely rings true in this case. Very cheap compatible ink cartridges may have less ink that the original - which means you will get less pages, albeit at a cheaper price. In some cases you will also find the print quality is lower due to the grade of ink used in some compatibles.

We stock compatibles in the mid-range which offer a good balance between price vs print quality. If you are printing black and white documents for work, or an internet recipe to follow in the kitchen, then it is unlikely you will ever notice the difference. However, if you are printing photographs to hang on the wall, you are probably going to want the best quality print available and that means original ink cartridges.


  • Price, they can be 30-40% cheaper than original ink cartridges


  • Reliability
  • Lower print quality
  • You may get less pages per cartridge


What are recycled or remanufactured ink cartridges?

Ink cartridges are nearly always made from plastic and typically get thrown in bin when they are empty. Recently there has been a drive to make ink cartridges more eco friendly and you might have seen recycling stations where you can deposit your used ink and toner cartridges for recycling.

At Refax we would like to offer our customers an alternative to single use ink cartridges and at a low cost.

We take empty original ink cartridges which have been donated by customers via recycling points or directly to our shop in Petts wood. With our professional equipment we are able to replace any worn parts before refilling these cartridges with high quality ink. The cartridges are then tested before being packaged and resold at a much lower cost than either original or compatible cartridges.

Only original cartridges are refilled and they can only be refilled once. Most ink cartridges are not designed to be refilled, as the original manufacturers would prefer customers paid the higher price for their own brand cartridges. In some cases the reliability or print quality can suffer. However, with the right equipment it is possible to produce a reliable and good quality cartridge, often for almost half the price of the original.


  • Lowest price ink cartridge available
  • Reduces plastic waste
  • Uses the same housing as the original


  • Can have reliability issues
  • Print quality will be lower than originals
  • Not all cartridges can be refilled successfully



We offer three different types of cartridge so our customers can choose how much they would like to spend on their printing. Our original cartridges are competitively priced and will give you the best quality and reliability possible. If you want to save money, give our compatible or recycled cartridges a try.