In 1978, Joel Hirschhorn left a tenured position at the University of Wisconsin to work at the Office of Technology Assessment, a nonpartisan research arm of Congress.

This month, Hirschhorn, 50, returned to the private sector as president and chief executive of EnviroSearch-East, a Washington offshoot of the EnviroSearch environmental services firm based in Salt Lake City.

"It's such a constant struggle to advance things on the Hill ... one vested interest and another vested interest slugging it out," he said. "I thought I could do more for the environment by working out there in reality, with industry and for industry."

At the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), Hirschhorn directed research on hazardous waste management and waste reduction that spurred the creation of legislation in 1984 and 1986. He recently completed a book, "Prosperity Without Pollution," which is due out this fall and suggests ways that industry can profit from reducing waste.

EnviroSearch-East will focus on the same issue, he said, by evaluating recycling methods and waste reduction techniques and advising clients on which measures to adopt.

"It's better to spend some money to try and change what you're doing and not produce hazardous waste than spend your money on lawyers and trying to comply with {federal} regulations," he said.

The firm also will work with companies that are producing new environmental technologies to market their products and understand the maze of federal legislation on environmental issues. Industry observers said Hirschhorn's career change reflects an increase in corporate attention to the growing business of curbing pollution.

"There are opportunities in the area of the environment now that aren't directly dependent on any kind of government agency," said Professor Henry Merchant, director of the environmental studies program at George Washington University.

"Because the environmental situation is getting worse instead of better, I see these kind of opportunities as growing and becoming very lucrative and significant," Merchant said.

Jerome Goldstein, editor and publisher of two Emmaus, Pa.-based environmental business magazines, said Hirschhorn is wanted as much for his understanding of the Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies as or his technological knowledge. "His insights and expertise are in demand," he said.

For now, Hirschhorn said, he is doing more marketing than environmental engineering. He divides his time in his new office at Virginia Avenue and 24th Street NW between interviewing job applicants and talking with potential clients gleaned from extensive contacts he made at OTA.

"There's just always something to do," he said. "I feel like I'm running a lab experiment and I can't wait for the data to come in."