Michael Burns an employe in the Environmental Protection Agency's hazardous-waste division, was misidentified in a Federal Report item Tuesday.

In 1981, the Environmental Protection Agency was one of the last federal agencies to get a full complement of Senate-confirmed political appointees. The agency went for six months without a confirmed administrator, and some top-level jobs were filled by temporary officials for more than a year.

Four years later, there's a sense of deja vu. The EPA has enough acting officials these days to start its own Screen Actors Guild local.

Two major divisions -- air, and solid waste -- are being run by acting officials and the water division chief is preparing to depart this month. The general counsel's office is also being handled on an acting basis by a career employe appointed to replace A. James Barnes, who moved up to become acting deputy administrator.

Barnes is expected to be confirmed this month as the agency's No. 2 official. But the White House has not nominated candidates for the other jobs, even though the air, water, and solid waste divisions are responsible for the agency's largest and most visible programs. The assistant administrator for solid waste, for example, oversees Superfund cleanups and the toxic-waste disposal law.

The agency's office of public affairs also lacks a permanent director, even though the EPA thought it had that job filled. Former EPA spokesman Rusty Brashear returned to the agency from the Interior Department last month, but barely had time to lay in office supplies when a call came from the White House. Brashear is a deputy press secretary there now, and the EPA is looking around. ISSUE IN BLACK AND WHITE . . .

It appears that even within the wordy world of environmental regulation there is no issue too complex to be translated into a T-shirt. So it is that the EPA's prime purveyor of print-on-knit slogans has come up with two new models.

Both bear the words "Land Disposal," but the white shirts have a thumbs-down symbol and the black ones show it thumbs up.

The shirts were designed by Michael Brown, an employe in the hazardous-waste division, as a way of injecting a little levity (and a little simplicity) into a recent briefing on landfill regulations for Administrator Lee M. Thomas.

The EPA is under a tight congressional deadline to crack down on land disposal of leakable hazardous wastes, and internal pressure has been building between two key agency divisions over how broadly to interpret Congress' mandate.

The hazardous-waste office wants to see tough anti-landfill rules; the policy office would prefer a more "flexible" approach.

The T-shirts reportedly drew a laugh at the EPA briefing, but the last laugh may lurk elsewhere. When EPA officials showed up a few days later for a meeting on the landfill rules with the Office of Management and Budget, the OMB representative was wearing one of the black T-shirts. WASTE NOT, WANT NOT . . .

The EPA, under prodding from Congress, has proposed its first set of guidelines to encourage more government use of recycled materials. Appropriately enough, the first proposal deals with paper.

The proposed guidelines were issued under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which is better known as the law that regulates the disposal of toxic wastes. As its name implies, however, RCRA also was intended to encourage reuse of salvageable materials, and last year Congress tossed in some deadlines to nudge the EPA forward on that front.

The EPA responded by handing the task to one of its most vocal internal critics, toxic-waste expert William Sanjour.

The job is hardly a make-work assignment. Paperwork Reduction Act notwithstanding, the government is a leading purchaser of paper products and adds its share to the 45 million tons of wastepaper the nation generates each year.

The EPA hopes its guidelines will set an example for industry and boost the market for recycled paper. Sanjour said future guidelines probably will deal with recycling oil and rubber tires. The General Services Administration might be encouraged to buy retreads and the Pentagon to purchase recycled oil.