Since the industrial revolution in the late 18th century more and more waste is being created. It is a problem that needs to be tackled in an environmentally friendly way and fast.
The problem is especially prevalent in the great oceans, where much plastic ends up being eaten by endangered fish.
The story takes place in present-day England. The text mentions “Filey, on the east Yorkshire” (p. 1, l. 10) as the place where the story takes place.
Filey is described as a “fishing town with a perfect sweep of pale golden beach, crumbling grassy cliffs” (p. 1, ll. 10-11.) However, the physical setting does change multiple times throughout the story.
These other physical settings are the oceans, the Caribbean, Oxford, and the Atlantic Gyre. The oceans are described vaguely as: “It rode south to North Anglia, and was then carried north past Holland to head round Denmark, past Norway to the Arctic Ocean.” (p. 4, ll. 18-19).
Most of the physical settings are not described in detail leaving the reader to their imagination, however, the Atlantic Gyre is described in detail.
Here Byatt writes: “It is said to be the size of Texas … composed of human plastic waste. It is like a pop painting” (p. 4, ll. 29-32). Here the reader has something direct they can compare the Gyre to.